Local lawmaker: some would die for a chance to vote

paul harris

A confluence of November events prompted a local legislator’s speech at last week’s Veterans Day observance.

State Rep. Paul Harris talked about liberty, as well as some people who don’t take full advantage of it.

The Vancouver Republican, who was re-elected to his 17th District seat a week earlier, was on the podium at Tuesday’s local Veterans Day ceremony.

He is not a veteran, Harris said. There was a time, however, when he expected to be drafted into the Army. That was more than 40 years ago, as the Vietnam War was winding down. Harris was a college student and the Selective Service lottery assigned him a draft number near the top of the list.

But the U.S. quit drafting soldiers. So when Harris finally did go overseas in 1974 and saw Soviet weaponry, he was on a church mission.

“We were in Helsinki, Finland,” Harris said. When a train loaded with Russian military equipment went by, Harris and his mission companion took some photographs.

“We were 19,” Harris recalled. “We thought it was a cool picture. We were used to freedom in the United States, where you could take a picture of anything. We didn’t knew we were being watched.”
Then came an ominous tap on the shoulder.

“The church teaches you to never be confrontational,” Harris explained, filling in the story after the ceremony at the Armed Forces Reserve Center.

So when the stranger wanted the camera, he got the camera. The guy opened it, took out the film, and then handed the camera back.

The veterans who have served our country — and those who have died for it — are the reason we are free, Harris said.

That’s why he referred to another November event: Election Day, when less than half the county’s registered voters cast a ballot.

Harris said he was a little ashamed to be re-elected with 49 percent voter turnout.
“There are people who would die for the chance to elect their government.”

— Tom Vogt

Lauren Dake

Lauren Dake

Lauren Dake covers politics for The Columbian. You can reach her at 360-735-4534 or lauren.dake@columbian.com. Follow her on Twitter .

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