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Salute to Pierce County

Historical societies pay tribute to the Great War and Camp Lewis

A 1917 photo of Lt. Col. David L. Stone and his engineers who planned Camp Lewis. Photo courtesy of Lewis Army Museum Archives

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The Lakewood and Tacoma Historical Societies are joining forces to commemorate the World War I centennial and the fascinating role citizens of Pierce County played in establishing Camp Lewis in 1917.

"Every year we put on the Destiny Dinner, which is one of our largest events," explained Bill Baarsma, president of the Tacoma Historical Society. "But when we realized it was the centennial of the Great War - because the events that began in 1914 inevitably led to the U.S. entry to the war - we knew this was a great time to honor our military and the long-standing ties to this community."

That rich heritage will be showcased during the Salute to Pierce County event at 4 p.m. Oct. 19 at the American Lake Conference Center, 8085 NCO Beach Rd., Joint Base Lewis-McChord North.

During the social hour, from 4-5 p.m., a combo from the 56th Army Band, assigned to I Corps, will perform. Guests will then be seated in the ballroom where emcee Doug Richardson, a veteran and the former mayor of Lakewood, will welcome everyone.  

The American Legion Doughboy Memorial, Post #138 from University Place, will then do the Posting of the Colors. Next, JROTC Cadets from Wilson High School (Marines) and Stadium High School (Navy) in Tacoma, and Lakes High School (Army) and Clover Park High School in Lakewood (Air Force), will lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The dinner buffet will include Pacific rockfish with apple and walnut chutney, Southwest eye of round, roasted red potatoes with caramelized onions, a vegetable medley, wild mushroom dressing, full salad bar, bread and coffee, tea or water. Soft drinks, beer, wine and cocktails will be available at a cash bar.

Dessert will also be provided ... but with a twist. As part of the fundraising efforts, guests at each table will be able to donate money, which will be collected and tabulated. The table with the highest amount will be able to select dessert first, and so forth.

"The groups hosting a table also have the opportunity to honor a veteran or active-duty servicemember," said Becky Huber, president of the Lakewood Historical Society. "A photo of that individual will be part of the table display. Tables that are not hosted will have a veteran selected by the committee."

During the event, a trailer will be shown for the documentary Pershing's Last Patriot: The Frank Woodruff Buckles Story, which is about the life of the last American WWI veteran who died in 2011 at the age of 110. Additionally, Vicki Melton, a soprano affiliated with the Tacoma Opera, will lead the audience in singing "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America", both of which had their origins during WWI.

Former U.S. Representative from the 6th District, Norm Dicks, will also be in attendance to receive the Star of Destiny Award, which is awarded to an individual who has shaped history for the better.

"This is a one time event and there aren't any similar events in the area, so we want to make it special," Baarsma said. "That's why some soldiers and airmen will be invited to attend through a partnership with the BOSS program on base. We're excited to share this with those that are still serving."

Tickets are $50 per person and proceeds will benefit the historical societies and their work to preserve the heritage of Lakewood and Tacoma. Tickets will be on sale until Oct. 10.

For tickets and more information, call LHS at 253.682.3480 or THS at 253.472.3738. To learn more about the societies and their respective missions, visit www.lakewoodhistorical.org and www.tacomahistory.org.

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