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Cheers: Unsung heroes, park partners

OK, there are enough jeers on this page on a regular basis, so here's a cheers-only offering:

Cheers — To Matthew Havniear, a Medford veteran and peer support specialist with Columbia Care, who was recognized in Washington, D.C., as the 2017 Unsung Hero by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

A Marine who was injured during his second tour in Afghanistan, Havniear launched his own nonprofit organization to introduce other veterans to outdoor activities in order to help them adjust following their return from combat. He started a workout program for disabled veterans and now works as a mental health provider to assist veterans with reintegration and in finding housing.

Havniear knows all too well that war wounds are not just the physical ones and is making a direct difference in the lives of men and women who put their lives on the line for our country.

Cheers — To the Class of 2017. Every year we hear stories of great students, and great people, who are finishing their final year of high school. But it's clear in reading those stories that their finish is just the start of something even better.

Whether it's Marlena Cromwell at North Medford High taking off, literally, for a career in aviation or Central Medford High's Logan Carranza turning his life around by making up 2½ years of credits in one year in order to graduate, we see the potential in their actions and in their eyes. That's amplified by the 52 valedictorians who were also featured in last Sunday's paper.

If you're feeling a bit gloomy about society's direction, lift your spirits by going back and checking out their stories. The valedictorians' stories are at www.mailtribune.com/news/20170604/congratulations-2017-valedictorians. Check out Cromwell's and Carranza's stories by entering their names in the search bar on the Mail Tribune home page.

Cheers — To the horde of volunteers who showed up to help construct seven "tiny home" duplexes for the homeless last Saturday. Organizers hoped for 75 helpers, but were shocked to see 200 people on the site in west Medford, ready to help.

That turnout was boosted by encouragement from organizations ranging from United Way to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There were volunteers who had personal connections and volunteers who had professional connections. And some who simply heard about it and wanted to help.

Regardless of where they came from, they helped put roofs over the heads of 14 individuals or couples. Homelessness is a huge issue and this is just a tiny bite out of it. But everyone from the City Council that approved the site to the volunteer driving the last nail Saturday deserves thanks for taking that first bite.

Cheers — To Crater Lake National Park staff and supporters, who recently signed a "twinning" agreement with Triglav National Park in Slovenia, essentially becoming sister parks, although the Slovenians use the twinning reference to signify a partnership. It's the second park-partner relationship signed by Crater Lake in the past 16 months, after park officials inked a similar deal with Wuyishan National Scenic Area in China last year.

Beyond connecting two parks, the agreement connects two cultures and two sets of experts on operating parks in wild areas. A Crater Lake official is getting that started, spending two weeks in Slovenia this month discussing issues common to both parks.

The parks have something else in common — great beauty. Crater Lake's spectacular blue shimmers atop the Cascades and Triglav sits in the Julian Alps near Slovenia's border with Austria and Italy, featuring its own pristine blue lakes and towering peaks.

The deal involved two former schoolmates from Medford: Bill Thorndike, currently of Medford and president of the Crater Lake Trust, and Brent Hartley, a Medford native who is now the U.S. ambassador to Slovenia. Both were on hand for the signing agreement, halfway around the world. It is indeed a small — and beautiful — world in many ways and places.