The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

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    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
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    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
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    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
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    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Waggoner describes life as a Navy SEAL

Written by David Green.


Underwater. In the air. On the ground. A Navy SEAL is trained to operate in almost any environment, no matter how seemingly inhospitable.

Students learned about the life of a SEAL when lieutenant John Waggoner visited Gorham Fayette middle school last month for a question-and-answer session. The Sandusky native is a friend of Fayette teacher Brittan Bosco, who arranged for the visit. seal.color

Lt. Waggoner recently returned home from a tour of duty in Iraq, where he and his team carried out assignments in locations spanning the entire embattled country. He spoke much about his experiences in the Middle East, but as a 10-year armed forces veteran, he had tales to tell of serving on every continent except Antarctica. Some of his most interesting stories occurred on his home soil.

Lt. Waggoner first joined the Navy in 1996 at the age of 17, when he enrolled in the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. He told students he had considered serving in the armed forces throughout his youth, but knew that to get accepted to any of the nation’s three prestigious military colleges, he would have to excel in high school.

“I did very well in high school,” he said. “I finished close to the top of my class.”

In high school, Lt. Waggoner said, language arts was his least favorite topic. However, he warmed up to it when it became apparent how challenging the math and science courses were in the Naval Academy.

“For the first time in my life, I had encountered an academic subject I wasn’t good with,” he said of an engineering course. “It really opened my eyes.”

It was the first in a series of challenges he would have to overcome in his career in the Navy. Originally, Lt. Waggoner had planned to train as a Naval aviator, but later decided to try his hand as a SEAL—short for sea, air and land. However, the path to earning the designation of one of the nation’s most elite commandos included enduring one of the most severe and exhausting training programs in the world.

For instance, recruits were sometimes forced to physically train until 3 a.m., which wouldn’t have been too bothersome if they were not expected to report for duty at 5 a.m, Lt. Waggoner said.

He spoke of one episode in which he and a fellow recruit were at the brink of throwing in the towel. They were in the middle of a particularly exhaustive exercise, and neither aspiring soldier could stop making small procedural errors. As drill instructors assigned them more and more push-ups, Lt. Waggoner said he questioned his will to go on.

“Thankfully, we got through it and pulled ourselves together,” he said.

After serving as a SEAL for several years, Lt. Waggoner now understands why the training was so intensive, so physically and mentally draining.

He has endured three-month stints on submarines, where conditions were so cramped that he felt like he couldn’t move without jostling someone. He has gone 50 straight days without a shower. He has awoken from a slumber to find distressingly large camel spiders in his boots.

In Iraq, Lt. Waggoner saw many instances of violence, but he has not been injured in the line of duty.

“On the front line, there are a lot of bad guys there who love to shoot their guns,” he said.

During reconnaissance operations conducted via helicopter, Lt. Waggoner saw car bombs detonated in the distance.

When a student asked if Lt. Waggoner had shot anyone, the veteran replied hesitantly.

“I knew that question was coming and I said I would be honest and the answer is ‘yes,’” he said. “It is a thing we regret. Any veteran will tell you when you are called to do it that it is a difficult thing to do.”

“I would suggest not asking that of any other veterans,” he said.

After a decade in the military, Lt. Waggoner is now at a point where he can choose to go back to combat or retire from active duty. As a SEAL and a graduate of one of the best colleges in the country, he is in demand. Several private companies have offered him consulting positions. He is also considering attending medical or law school.

Lt. Waggoner acknowledged that he chose an uncommon path in life, and encouraged students not to shy away from the road less traveled.

“Enjoy yourselves,” he said, “don’t be afraid to get involved in different activities.”

    – June 13, 2007 

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