Northwest News

Waterside memorial in Olympia honors those lost at sea

About 100 people, including veterans young and old, paid their respects Sunday as part of a waterside memorial to remember those men and women lost at sea — during combat or in times of peace.

The Memorial Day weekend ceremony, which lasted about an hour and included cannon fire and the playing of taps, took place in downtown Olympia at Percival Landing. The event was organized by the Thurston County Veterans Council.

Key to the ceremony is throwing small bouquets of flowers into Budd Inlet. Organization names were called out one by one, and then representatives of those groups stepped forward to cast flowers into the water.

Those participating included American Legion Post 94 and 100; the Boy Scouts of America; the Marine Corps and Navy; and the Military Officers Association of America. Olympia City Councilwoman Cheryl Selby, Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet and Thurston County Commissioner Bud Blake also participated.

Among those in attendance:

•  Law Risken, 81, of Lacey, who served aboard the second USS De Haven during the Korean War. The De Haven, a destroyer, lined up with other destroyers to create a “firing line,” he said, which then aimed its guns on taking out key infrastructure in Korea, such as railroad tracks. The first USS De Haven was sunk at Guadalcanal during World War II.

•  Bob Thompson, 83, of Lacey, who came to remember his brother, Gordon, who died in March 1945 at age 22 while serving as a Navy medic during the battle of Iwo Jima. Thompson said his brother was injured on the island, later died aboard a Navy ship, and was buried at sea.

Thompson served in the Army infantry during the Korean War in 1950 and 1951. He remembers being hit by a piece of shrapnel during the war, but he wasn’t out of the action for long. The piece of shrapnel was dug out with a pen knife, he recalled, and then he was sent back to fight.

•  John Tiefel, 67, of Lacey, who served in the Navy and worked in Naval aviation during the Vietnam War at Lemoore, California, a base that helped train sailors who would go on to serve on aircraft carriers.

He said Sunday’s waterfront location was perfect for the ceremony because Puget Sound has such a rich history of building ships and airplanes.

“You don’t have to go far to appreciate our freedom,” he said.