Soldierhappy to be home

Published on Thu, Oct 7, 2004 by ack Kintner

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Soldier happy to be home

By Jack Kintner

This Sunday, Christ Episcopal Church in Blaine will help one of their youngest members celebrate his second birthday. The gifts, however, will all go to his dad, sergeant Matt Buonadonna, home on two weeks’ leave from his assignment with the National Guard’s 81st Armored Brigade outside Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Christ Church’s vicar, Father John Gibbs, said that the congregation organized the special birthday party to honor Isaac’s dad and the other National Guard soldiers he’s serving with, and give others a chance to bring something for Matt to take back to the middle east for other soldiers.

“We’ve sent a number of packages there already,” said Gibbs, “because whether you agree with the war or not, we want our young men and women to know we stand behind them. This is beyond politics.”

Gifts collected on Sunday, according to the congregation’s senior warden Mary Rebman, will be shipped over to Buonadonna after he leaves. “We’re asking everyone to bring a friend and something to send, and to join us for a potluck afterward,” she said.
Buonadonna serves with the Bellingham Armory, also known as

“Charlie Company of the 898 Engineers,” he said, “a part of the 81st brigade, which is made up of armories all across the state.” The result, Buonadonna said, is that he’s serving almost exclusively with soldiers from somewhere in Washington state, many of them from his Bellingham armory.

He said the boxes from home help morale a lot. “The best thing we got was some home-made strawberry jam made from Whatcom County berries.”

As for what else people might bring, “AA batteries are always a good idea, because even though we have a regular PX (post exchange),” Buonadonna said, “we go through a lot of batteries. Packs of rechargeables are even better.”

He said there are items they can’t always get at the PX, like cookies and smoked salmon, board games, newer DVDs and books like Harry Potter stories or the Eragon series. A batch of local papers is always nice, and for some of the guys who didn’t bring a lot of civilian clothes, tee shirts (any size) from home that can be worn or given away.

This is Buonadonna’s second overseas tour. The Renton native graduated from Kentridge high school in 1997 and served three years in the Fifth Battalion, Third Field Artillery based at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The unit spent six months in Kuwait in 1999.

He met and married Elizabeth Stringer before leaving Oklahoma and the Army in 2000 for Bellingham and National Guard duty, enrolling in the engineering technology program at Western Washington University. He completed three years before being called up in the fall of 2003.

“Other units were going and we knew last year we’d be getting called up sometime,” he said, “and sure enough, we got about two weeks’ notice last fall to report. We went to Fort Lewis to train and then to Riyadh, where we guard a small base of about 1,000 people.” Buonadonna said that he was supposed to have been out last month but the Pentagon’s recent Stop-Loss program canceled all end of services dates. He now anticipates being back home for good in late February or March of next year.

Father Gibbs, a one-time Naval officer who retired as a full commander, said that on Sunday his congregation will “Keep our focus on worshipping God but also celebrate the fact that Matt’s back home with us for Isaac’s birthday.”

Services at Christ Episcopal Church, 382 Boblett, begin at 10 a.m. For more information contact Mary Rebman at 332-8491.