By Jordan Burke
Payson – Seated on his living room couch, Mayor Bernell Evans looks out the window of his home. The signs of age are apparent as he discusses the past 72 years of his life. For this retired schoolteacher and former Navy crewman, the prospects of hostilities revive feelings from his war torn past.
As the Iraqi war continues, residents of Payson have an all-too-personal relationship with the war efforts and possible terrorist attacks. Some, such as Evans, have already lived through it. Others await activation day-by-day.
“I don”t believe we should go to war if we don”t plan to win,” Evans said. “I think if we”re going there to take the dictator out, we”ve better get him out.”
For Evans, war reflects a vivid reality. Evans joined the Navy with eight friends to avoid the draft. That was Dec. 28, 1950. Now, three of the eight are dead. For Evans, a survivor of the Korean War, patriotism still thrives.
“There”s a lot of concerns that people have,” Evans said. “I think most probably feel we”ve put up enough with people like Saddam Hussein. That which happened in New York Sept. 11 is something we don”t have to tolerate. I don”t know if a lot of people from Iraq were involved in it but whoever it was needs to pay the price.”
Following the attack, Evans said he saw more flags flying around the city and especially people wearing the flag lapel pin.
“To me they”ve showed more patriotism than they had since World War II,” said Evans, who graduated from BYU in 1958.
Anti-war efforts, however, are not well received by some of the residents.
“It”s not the soldiers,” said Sgt. Maj. Todd Bennett, a member of the Utah National Guard”s Recruiting and Retention Operations.
“People in small towns are more patriotic whether or not they agree,” Bennett said.
“It”s nice to see the flags back on the front porches,” Bennett said.
However even the Stars and Stripes do not bring solace to all.
“I”m a little nervous,” said Bennett, a 23-year resident of Payson. “No, I”m a lot nervous.”
In efforts to allay fear, Payson officials organized their own Community Emergency Response Team nearly eight years ago. Fire Chief Scott Spencer now heads the unit. Everyone in the motley group is given their own official hardhat and vest. The volunteers must also undergo 21 hours of class including a brief introduction to terrorism prevention.
Spencer admits the training is not too specific but says it provides general guidelines in what to do in an emergency. Protected areas include the city”s power plant, water springs and sewer system, Spencer said.
“I don”t think it is going to happen,” said Spencer, who heads the city”s 28-person volunteer fire department.
With the daunting task of safeguarding 16,000 people during war time and possible terrorism, the city faces a formidable task.
“I don”t know if we”re doing enough, but we”re doing something,” Evans said.
Todd Wilson, who runs the city”s office computer system, said reminders of the continuing Iraqi conflict come each day.
“The only time I worry about it is when I go downstairs and see my green bags packed,” Wilson said.
Wilson is a member of Utah National Guard”s 116th Combat Engineers. The Guard put Wilson and his comrades on alert a month ago, but so far they have not been called up.