Eagles Club plans to create its own ‘Wall of Honor’

South Kitsap group plans to recognize local military members serving in harm’s way

The Port Orchard Eagles Club has a wall and the will to use it as a tribute to local service members.

Now all it needs is a few good men and women to celebrate.

“What we want to create is a Wall of Honor for South Kitsap residents fighting for their country,” said Ken Bicha, a trustee of the club and the concept’s originator.

“I served in Vietnam myself,” he said, “and I can remember how I was treated when I came back. Instead of being spit on, I want these people to know we appreciate their sacrifice.”

Bicha envisons something similar to the banners hung on light posts along Mile Hill Drive in Port Orchard. Currently, there are 21 six-foot banners bearing the names of local military members currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan and those who have previously served there.

In addition to the Blue Star banners, the tribute includes a Gold Star banner for Port Orchard resident Devon Gibbons, who died in 2006 of injuries he sustained while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

“Every time I drive up Mile Hill, I salute Devon Gibbons’ banner,” Bicha said. “And several times a year, I put flowers on his grave and salute him again. There are a lot veterans in the Eagles club; we think it’s very important to honor these people, and we want to offer a space in our club to do so.”

So far, the biggest problem has been finding names.

For obvious reasons, the military doesn’t give out the names of those currently serving.

“They’re protected by the Privacy Act, and we completely respect that,” Bicha said. “But we’d still like to do something nice for the ones we do know about.”

The Blue Star program was launched by Seabeck resident Lynette George, whose two sons served multiple tours in Iraq. Bicha said he’s been in touch with George, and she faces much the same problem.

“We’re both pretty much dependent on the families of those serving to tell us about it,” Bicha said. “Beyond that, there’s not much we can do, because we want to respect people’s privacy.”

In addition to honoring those serving with a spot on the Eagles’ Wall of Honor, Bicha said the club would like to honor them and their families with a banquet in their honor — several, in fact.

Blue Star families and their guests would be welcome for up to four free banquets, and Gold Star families — those whose service member was killed in action — would be eligible for up to 10.

The general public would also be invited, for $5 per person.

The club is already planning its first dinner for May 29 to honor those names it has already accumulated.

“We’ll take care of those we know about now, and the rest we’ll take care of next time,” Bicha said.

He concedes, “There may be families out there that couldn’t care less about this.” But among those Bicha has contacted so far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Most of them are proud to be recognized, and we’re happy to do it,” Bicha said. “Devon Gibbons’ father served in Vietnam himself, and he knows what it’s like to get spit on for your trouble. They’re in a Gold Star support group and they’re going to put us in touch with as many other families as they can.”

Anyone knowing the name of a South Kitsap service man or woman currently serving, or who has previously served, in Iraq or Afghanistan and deserving of a spot on the Eagles’ club’s Wall of Honor can contact Bicha at (360) 871-2388.