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Greg W.
Republican OR 2

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  • Tribute to John Howard

    by Representative Greg Walden

    Posted on 2014-12-11

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    WALDEN of oregon in the house of representatives Thursday, December 11, 2014 Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor John Howard, an indispensable member of my staff and good friend who will soon retire after ten years of faithful service to me and the people of Oregon's Second District.

    John has had a long, dedicated career serving his country. In fact, this actually marks John's second retirement. In 1994, John left his beloved United States Navy after a thirty year career, rising from enlisted seaman to Commander. A passionate Fighting Illini alumnus, John received his commission in 1970 as a graduate of the Navy ROTC program at the University of Illinois. John served on five ships, including command of the USS Saginaw (LST-1188) and several shore assignments, including two tours in Washington D.C.

    After a few years of retirement--and a brief stint as a dotcom millionaire gone bust with an independent software development company--John and his wife Cathy relocated from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Medford, Oregon in September 2001. In fact, the closing on his home was delayed because of 9/11. He persevered through and settled in to the Rogue Valley getting involved in his community through the United Way and several military organizations. I first met John when he was the president of the Rogue Valley Council of the Navy League where he presented me with an honorary Navy League membership.

    A lifelong Republican, John stepped up to volunteer with the 2004 Bush/Cheney presidential campaign in Jackson County, OR. John stayed in touch with my office through similar political and community volunteer efforts. Soon, when a member of my staff decided to return to school part time, I brought John on to share the workload and the following year, John joined my team full time to handle veterans and military casework and provide input on related policy matters.

    Bringing John onboard wasn't without issue. John Howard is a pretty common name for one and we already had a John on staff. The communication logistics could have been daunting, yet by chance House IT averted a crisis. John was bestowed with a non-standard email address that had no ``dot'' between his first and last name. Thereafter and forevermore, John was referred to as NoDot amongst Team Walden.

    During his ten years on staff, John has handled 4,144 cases for individual constituents and veterans, almost 1/3 of all the cases handled in 16 years by my office. That doesn't include the countless other veterans and other constituents assisted on the side with information and guidance.

    Of course, it was hard for him to top the success of one of his first cases on staff where he showed an ability that surprised us all, bringing veterans back to life. John was contacted by a veteran who had received a letter from the VA containing the shocking news that he was deceased. Working with his contacts at the VA, John was able to get the error corrected and brought the veteran back to life in the VA's records. Over the years, John has had a couple other similar cases, all of which he found fascinating to resolve.

    As my veterans caseworker, and later as Director of Constituent Services, John worked with veterans organizations across the district to make sure that I heard their concerns and let them know I was available to assist. John was a familiar face at veterans meetings and events in southern Oregon. Further, he was instrumental in developing a presentation for civic groups on what goes on in congressional offices, making my services more known and available to constituents.

    A good naval officer is always concerned about the morale of his sailors. John carried that approach with him and became the de facto Morale Officer in my Southern Oregon District Office. Combining this with a firm belief in the importance of quality community outreach in politics, John founded ``Rope Yarn/Veterans Outreach Wednesdays'' which are weekly after hours gathering for staff and local veterans to discuss local veteran's issues and partake in the occasional fermented beverage--as any good sailor would! During his tenure, John took the reins of my service academy selection process, changing and building it into the strong program it is today. He constructed a board of retired military officers to interview all candidates that was decidedly ``Purple,'' ensuring all service components were fully represented. This system has proven to be highly successful. In fact, nine of the 18 students I nominated last year received an appointment to the class of 2018.

    As John heads into retirement, he is looking forward to some increased time with his extensive family, which includes his wife Cathy, his son, five daughters; soon-to-be 13 grandchildren--including two newborn fraternal twin granddaughters--along with 2 foster grandchildren.

    Always service oriented, John will continue to volunteer in his community and was recently appointed to the board of the Jackson County Retired Seniors Volunteer Program. In addition, he has been approached to serve on the board of the United Way and the Jackson County Veterans Advisory Committee.

    Whether spending time with family, golfing or volunteering it will always be easy to identify John from afar in the University of Illinois characteristic orange and blue, or overhear the words to the Songs of the Illini--from Illinois Loyalty to Hail to the Orange--which he loudly and proudly belt out with the slightest provocation.

    Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me in honoring John's 40 plus years of public service and in wishing fair winds and following seas to a true gentleman, shipmate, and friend. Godspeed, NoDot! ____________________

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