Fort Vancouver barracks transferred from Army to park service

Fort Vancouver barracks transferred from Army to park service »Play Video
Iraq War veteran Jeff Stivason points to the name of Sgt. Earl Werner, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Northern Iraq in 2009, on the Clark County Veterans War Memorial wall.

VANCOUVER, Wash. – The U.S. Army transferred the East and South Vancouver Barracks to the National Park Service at Fort Vancouver Monday afternoon.
 
The last Army reservists were relocated in September as part of military base realignment.

From World War II to Korea, from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, men and women were brought together Memorial Day for the ceremonies at the fort.

"It feels good to be standing here," said Craig Colson who served in the Marines. "There're a lot of people that aren't going to be standing here, and that's why we're here today."

Local leaders said the transfer is good news for preserving the fort's history. It opened in 1849 as the first barracks in the Northwest. The park service will renovate the buildings and educate people about the fort.

"Vancouver barracks has always been special for the city of Vancouver, because it's right in the heart of the city of Vancouver," said Larry Smith, a retired Army colonel and a Vancouver City Council member.

While the Army will no longer be in charge, local leaders plan to encourage the military to hold special events, such as Monday's service, and change of command ceremonies.

Another reason for Monday's celebration was there were no new additions this year to the Clark County Veterans War Memorial wall. That drew applause from the crowd of roughly 1,000. The wall honors locals who gave their lives in battle, ensuring they will not be forgotten.

Jeff Stivason, a former Army sergeant who did four tours in the Middle East, came to the wall to remember Sgt. Earl Werner, a Bronze Star recipient who died serving in Northern Iraq in 2009 because of a roadside bomb. Stivason was there too.

"He was at the wrong place at the wrong time, but he was doing his job. And he did it very well. He was a really great guy, and he did everything by the book, and it was a pleasure and honor to serve with him," Stivason said. "I think everybody needs to be a patriot for the United States of America. If you're living in America, you need to be a patriot for America. That's what it's all about."

Werner served three tours in the Middle East and left behind his wife and son.