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

  • Front.sculpt
    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.
  • Front.tar.wide
    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.
  • Front.pull
    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.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    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.

Josh Thonnissen: Seabee on mission in Djibouti

Written by David Green.


Join the Navy and see the world.

That’s how it’s working for 2003 Morenci graduate Joshua Thonnissen. He signed up for six years as a Navy Seabee (Construction Brigade) and so far he’s visited Germany, Afghanistan, Iraq and Djibouti.

josh-thonnissen As Thonnissen is finding out, it’s not just seeing the world; it’s also helping the world.

He’s a little more than a month into a six- to-eight month deployment in Djibouti—in the Horn of Africa—and he’s spending plenty of time helping out the local residents of Tadjoura, the oldest town in the country.

If asked, most people probably couldn’t find Djibouti on the map and up until a few weeks ago, Thonnissen would probably have put himself in that group. He’d heard of it, but that’s about it. That situation changed quickly.

Now he knows the country is considered an important partner in the United States’s global war on terrorism through Operation Enduring Freedom. About 1,500 U.S. Army, Marine and Navy troops are stationed in the country for counter-terrorism efforts.

For a Seabee like Thonnissen, that means helping to improve conditions for local citizens.

“Our mission is to improve their lives,” he said, “to win the hearts and minds. We want them to understand that we’re here to help them out.”

During Thonnissen’s first five weeks in the country, he’s joined in an effort to make physical improvements at dormitories housing orphans. The troops also spend time playing with kids.

“We play soccer, basketball and football,” he said. “We have a lot of interaction with the local people since we’re living right around them.”

Interaction is limited somewhat by language barriers in the formerly French territory, but that doesn’t stop the fun.

“There’s a language barrier,” Thonnissen said, “but they mostly understand what you’re talking about.”

Thonnissen describes Djibouti as a hot, dry, dusty, windy land with some vegetation but still rather desert-like.

“There’s a lot of lava rock and not a lot of flat land,” he said.

Not only are there mountains as high as 6,700 feet, Djibouti also features the lowest spot in Africa.

The country of 480,000 people is about the size of Massachusetts, but has only about 226 miles of paved road. The unemployment rate stands at 50 percent, and little land is arable.

However, its location at the mouth of the Red Sea gives the country important strategic standing, as well as offering a port for the shipment of goods in and out of the African highlands to the west. One of the world’s busiest shipping lanes lies off Djibouti’s coast. The only U.S. military base in sub-Sahara Africa is located in the country, across the bay from Tadjoura.

Thonnissen’s interaction with the local people goes beyond soccer with the kids. During their spare time, troops often swim at the beach or visit a local bar.

“We get to meet a lot of interesting people,” he said.

It was about two years ago that Thonnissen began boot camp before moving on to 18 weeks of vocational school. He’s been to many classes throughout his enlistment, although not usually while on deployment.

“I’m having fun so far,” he said about his time in Djibouti. “Time is going by fairly fast.”

Still, he admits, you start to miss your family after a while overseas.

He has no idea what might come up next—a trip back to his home base in Mississippi or further deployment around the world.

“I’ve seen quite a bit of the world so far,” he said, but he’s looking forward to exploring even more.

  - March 22, 2006


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