Port Townsend-area sanitation company owner raises awareness to bring the troops home

CAPE GEORGE — With its red and white stripes and white stars, the newest incarnation of the Good Man Sanitation sign — an outhouse mounted on top of an 8-foot pole — is hard to miss.

But it’s the message on the giant blue ribbon on the outhouse wall that company owner Neil Vander Ven wants everyone to see and take to heart: Bring the troops home.

“The outhouse is my statement as an American,” Vander Ven said.

“The ribbon is something else — it’s my deal. I’d like the troops to come home. I think we did our job.”

The message, to “Honor Our Troops — Bring Them Home” is one Vander Ven believes in so strongly, he has started a one-man campaign to distribute blue ribbon signs.

He makes the 4-foot signs in the shop at the business on Cape George Road, and already has a waiting list of people who want one.

He’s also launching a bring-the-troops-home Web site, and last week sent a photograph of the outhouse to President Bush, along with a letter asking for his support.

‘What everybody wants’

While the war is controversial, Vander Ven doesn’t see the signs as making a political statement.

“I want what everybody wants — our kids to come home,” he said.

“I agreed we had to go in there. But the job is done.”

Vander Ven said the idea for the signs grew out of a conversation he had with the father of young Port Townsend man who had served in Iraq, one of several friends of Vander Ven’s son, Kelly — a Port Townsend High School graduate who died in a car crash in Sequim in January 2004.

The father told Vander Ven that after his son came back from the war, he did not take his clothes off for a week because he was afraid.

“He told me, ‘You lost your little boy and I lost my little boy,”‘ Vander Ven said.

“It just did something to me. I knew somebody had to do something.”

Vander Ven decided that as a New Year’s resolution, he would start the blue ribbon campaign.

“A lot of people give up cigarettes or booze at the first of the year,” he said. “I decided to put 12 months into making and putting up these signs.”

THE BLUE-RIBBON signs urging the government to bring home American troops from the Iraq war are in such demand, Neil Vander Ven is looking for people to help him make them, he said.

For more information on acquiring the signs or helping to craft them, call Vander Ven at Good Man Sanitation, 360-385-7155.

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