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Tim King, We Were Blessed to Know YouCol. (USA, Ret.) Arnold V. Strong special to Salem-News.com
Relentlessly compassionate. Ever focused on telling the uncomfortable truths. A warrior of the news cycle.
(LONG BEACH, Calif.) - Two weeks ago today, my friend, Timothy Andrew “Tim” King left this world for the sweet hereafter. It has taken me this time to clear my head and to commemorate him.
I first met Tim King when I had returned to uniformed service in the wake of 9-11. I had left the Regular Army in 2000 to serve in the dot com boom of Portland and returned to service with the Oregon National Guard as its Chief Public Affairs Officer or PAO. It took the Guard about eight months to process my paperwork and I was sworn in in the autumn of 2002.
Almost immediately, reporting of the “D.C. Sniper” hit the news and it was soon discovered that, while Sgt. John Allen (later known by his converted Muslim name, John Allen Muhammad), had served in the Active Army at Fort Lewis, close to Tacoma, Wash., he had enlisted under a “Try One” option with the Oregon National Guard thereafter. Accordingly, his final service in uniform was with the agency I had just joined.
When I called the PAO up at Fort Lewis, the Lieut. Col. PAO there, who had been one of my Ranger Instructors back in Ranger School, said to me, “Tag, Ranger Buddy! You’re it! All News Media will be routed to you and Salem, Oregon. You’ve got this!” Thus, all national news agencies were routed from Fort Lewis, Washington, to Salem.
As the new PAO, I was dealing with my first major news story and wanted my Adjutant General to be prepared. The pool reporters from KATU (ABC), KGW (NBC), KOIN (CBS) and KPTV (Fox) joined reporters from the Statesman Journal, The Oregonian, and the Register Guard, as well as reporters for Associated Press. The General handled the interview remarkably well and the story almost immediately left the Oregon news cycle as a consequent.
While I don’t remember the majority of reporters from that day, there was one who stood out, a cameraman/producer from KATU’s Capitol office, a man with clear piercing eyes squinting at me through a travel and cigarette-smoke hardened face, who walked up to me afterward and allowed his hair out of his knit cap.
“Hey man,” I turned to face the man who’d packed up his gear and was standing alone to greet me. “I mean, “Sir.”
He extended his right hand and continued, “Tim King, brother. Oorah! Airborne Ranger, huh? Well, I was just a lowly Marine, but I think we can probably speak the same language because of that. You the new PAO?”
I shook his hand, and immediately got that this guy was the real deal.
“Hey, Man. Tim King? I’m Arnold Strong. We’ve both got pretty cool names, that’ll make it easy to remember you. And yeah... I just started last month.”
“Hell of a thing this Sniper guy. But your General seemed to handle us well. Anyway, brother, here’s my card. Put me in your Blackberry and please let me know when you’ve got news to put out.
"I am local and I am usually one of the first reporters here. And Hey,” he exclaimed as he turned around from his walk back to his news van, “You handled yourself well, too, man. This clearly isn’t your first rodeo.
“Don’t let the machine break you down, man. Alright, Major Strong, damn that’s a cool name, see you around.”
Little did I realize how much that first interaction would set the trajectory for the closest relationship I maintained with any reporter from the Salem or Portland reporting pool.
Tim would be a front row presence as I disclosed the names of the first dozen casualties of the Oregon National Guard in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as we disclosed the resignation of the Oregon Adjutant General, as we managed coverage of forest fires, helicopter rescues and Memorial Day parades.
Most significantly, I hosted Tim as an embedded reporter in Afghanistan for two months in the end of 2006 and beginning of 2007.
Over the two and a half months he shared with his fellow Oregonians, he climbed the Gharib Ghar in the snow, documented Soldiers working alongside their Afghan National Army counterparts in Lashkar Gha, and joined me and many Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines in rebuilding a women’s hospital in Kabul.
It was here that Tim made the biggest impact. Following our troops on an early morning convoy movement, we arrived to see a hospital which was filthy and in great need of repair.
With a team of about twenty volunteers, we spent the day, cleaning, sanitizing and painting the wards and halls, installing curtains and fixing windows and doing our best to be as approachable as foreign troops in a foreign land can be.
This past June, Tim purchased a Ducati motorcycle in the California bay area and took it on a trip down to Arizona then looped back through Southern California on his way north to Oregon.
He stopped to meet with me and my wife, Jessica, at our home in the Villa Riviera in Long Beach. We hosted him for dinner on the grill and then I returned him to the hotel up the street that gave him a good spot to rest his weary bones from travel. I called to say farewell and he gave me updates from the road whenever he could and confirmed his arrival back in Salem, Oregon.
It was three weeks ago that he was riding that same Ducati on Commercial Street in Salem, when a car pulled out and struck him. After five days on life support in a medically induced coma, he left us. I have been saddened for weeks, but now feel some relief… because I got to know Tim King.
I knew the Tim King who climbed up the tallest peak in Kabul with me.
Relentlessly compassionate. Ever focused on telling the uncomfortable truths. He was a warrior of the news cycle... And he was our friend.
In short, I am now at peace because I was blessed to know Tim King.
Col. (USA, Ret.) Arnold V. Strong
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