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Bremerton VFW welcomes home Navy vet

Lt. Barry Doll hugs Evie Vandenberg during his welcome home event at VFW Post No. 239. - Seraine Page
Lt. Barry Doll hugs Evie Vandenberg during his welcome home event at VFW Post No. 239.
— image credit: Seraine Page

There’s no place like home is the response most military members give upon arriving back to their families.

On Tuesday evening, VFW Post No. 239 welcomed back Lt. Barry Doll from his year-long deployment to Afghanistan. While Doll was away, the post and its Ladies Auxiliary sent care packages stuffed with blankets, coffee, candies and other items.

“It’s great,” Doll said of being back home. “It’s nice to have men and women who have worn the uniform support you. They know what you’re going through.”

While he was gone, Doll’s wife, Debbie, raised three teenagers and managed his business, Barry Doll Agency, an American Family Insurance Company.

“You go through the mode,” she said. “You’re on autopilot just to get by.”

Post No. 239 put on a dinner in Doll’s honor and asked him to come in and tell about his experiences overseas, something every member understands. Membership through the VFW requires that a veteran has spent time in a war zone at least once. Many of the veterans of the Bremerton post have served in Vietnam and Korea.

Although Monday was his last day of active duty, Doll showed up in a camouflage uniform to speak to vets. He’s now a reservist.

Prior to dinner, a moment of silence was observed to remember fallen comrades and those missing-in-action.

Fellow vets also chatted with Doll and his wife and looked over a table covered in items that he brought back from overseas. Printed photos covered the table that showed his living conditions. Pictures also highlighted he and other soldiers receiving packages and Doll showing off a Taliban-confiscated gun.

Doll gave a short presentation, mainly talking about his mission in Combined Special Operations Task Force 10, where he dealt with a lot of Afghani contractors, quickly learning who he could and couldn’t trust.

In addition to dealing with regular assaults and mortar attacks, he had to ensure that his base location was protected when new locals showed up as security guards. The enemy frequently swiped the U.S.  Navy and Army uniforms to try and penetrate bases and carry out suicide attacks, he said.

“It got pretty intense there,” he said. But Doll remarked, “We’re doing good things over there.”

Doll also recalled dealing with paying the contractors and keeping around $50,000 in American cash on base. The bases only paid contractors in cash, he said.

One of Doll’s warmest memories was receiving the care packages from Bremerton veterans. Many soldiers were without blankets, something that isn’t comfortable where the weather dips below 30 below at night. And when the closest cup of coffee is between one to three miles away, Doll and his fellow comrades were grateful when a Keurig and coffee arrived for them to brew hot coffee right on site.

“You can never have enough coffee,” Doll joked. “It was really nice to have people support you and be behind you.”

Doll presented the post with a certificate of appreciation and a folded American flag. The flag was “flown in the face of the enemy” on Memorial Day, Doll said. The VFW plans to hang the flag inside the post for all future and current veterans to see. Doll was also presented a VFW Lifetime Member hat and a coin from Post Commander Fritz Swyers and a Ladies Auxiliary member.

Aside from being welcomed home, Doll had another reason to visit the post, which he joined just before deploying. It was then he was given a challenge coin by a Navy veteran by the name of Douglas Dutter. The “Armor of God” coin was to keep Doll safe while he was deployed to a war zone. Upon his return, he was to give the coin back to Dutter to pass on to another active duty member who might need protection. Originally, the coin was given to Dutter by a chaplain who told him to pass it on. When Doll re-presented the coin, Dutter accepted it with tears in his eyes and gave Doll a hug.

“(I’m) speechless,” he said. “Walking on Cloud 9, you might say.”

Dutter plans to pass the coin on to his daughter’s friend who is now serving in Kuwait.

“We’re brothers, if you will,” said Pete Cholometes, a post member. “He’s one hell of a sharp individual to deal with that stuff in Afghanistan. He’s come back a much more worldly individual.”

 

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