The Other Half of ‘This Town’

Navy Lt. Lauryn Dempsey speaking on the phone following the shooting at Washington Navy Yard

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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Navy Lt. Lauryn Dempsey speaking on the phone following the shooting at Washington Navy Yard

The Navy Yard massacre reveals another side of ‘This Town’. The real side. The side we know well. By Kevin Baron

A decorated Naval officer and graduate of Annapolis. A father of three who spent three years in Iraq, voluntarily. A shipbuilder living his dream.

This town? This is our town. This is a glimpse of the defense and national security community’s town. It’s the side of this town that is less interested in the roll call and more interested in end-strength. Less concerned about Obamacare than TriCare. Less worried about what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, says than what Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey says.

This town. You won’t see any of them clawing to get on MSNBC. Nobody’s hanging on their every opinion of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, or the sequester, or gun control, or much of anything. They were part of a quiet, dutiful, service-minded community of millions across the greater Washington, DC, area who, perhaps without even realizing it, dedicate their careers and lives to the betterment of the nation, the military and the government.

This town is a town of civilian federal workers like those gunned down on Monday morning who commuted long miles to work, earned usually modest paychecks and raised their families in typical anonymity with atypical dedication to their country. In this town, even the typical suburban life often means working a job that is fairly removed from one’s local community, but vital to the national and global community.

These weren’t corner bakers. These were not your community teachers or doctors or shopkeepers. These weren’t bankers or businesswomen or soccer moms.

Michael Arnold, 59, of the DC suburb of Lorton, Va., grew up loving navy model boats, so he joined the Navy and then spent 30 years designing Navy vessels. Anyone in this town with a car knows that the commute from Lorton is often an hour-long slough through inch-by-inch traffic down to the Navy Yard.

Kathy Gaarde, 62, lived even farther south in Woodbridge, Va. She was a financial analyst for the yard and 25-year season ticket holder to the Washington Capitals.

Sylvia Frasier, 53, came from the other side of this town, in Waldorf, Maryland. She “worked on automated information systems and security of the network and information systems at Naval Sea Systems Command,” according to the Baltimore Sun. John Roger Johnson, 73, loved to ocean fish down at the Outer Banks like so many Washington dads. But he loved working as an engineering contractor for the Navy more, and would not retire.

Others worked in information systems. One was a utilities foreman with a son in the Army.

Vishnu Pandit, 61, of affluent North Potomac, Maryland, was one of Washington’s rapidly growing population of immigrants-turned-Americans. He’d worked for the Navy since the 1980s.

Arthur Daniels, 51, was an African-American from Southeast Washington who was at the Navy Yard to move in office furniture.

Then there was Martin Bodrog, 54 years old and a 22-year retired Navy officer.  He taught Sunday school. He has three daughters from ages 16 to 23. And he lived in Annandale, Va.

That’s my town.

They were all part of this town.

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