Northwest Military Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

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February 20, 2015 at 11:57am

Massing of the Colors in Tacoma

Begun in New York City on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1922 as a patriotic ceremony, the Massing of the Colors has become an annual event that salutes national pride and recognizes military service and sacrifice.

On Feb. 22, the Puget Sound Chapter of the Military Order of World Wars (MOWW) will sponsor the area's annual Massing of the Colors Ceremony. The event will begin at 3 p.m. at Stadium High School in Tacoma. Retired Maj. Gen. John Hemphill serves as the ceremony's grand marshal.

Active, Reserve and National Guard units, along with Senior and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets; armed services auxiliary organizations; state militias; veteran and civic groups; police, sheriff and fire departments; and Boy and Girl Scout organizations with a unit and American Flag are invited and urged to attend. The event is free and open to the public.

The ceremony typically begins with a march in of the various color guard units, followed by an invocation, the Pledge of Allegiance, singing of the national anthem and reading of the MOWW preamble. After remarks by the guest speaker and commander of the hosting MOWW chapter, the flags are blessed in honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, followed by the playing of "Taps." The colors are then retired.

Founded in 1919, MOWW is comprised of commissioned officers, warrant officers and flight officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, along with officers of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the United States Public Health Service.

The New York chapter of the organization inherited the responsibility for conducting the Massing of the Colors in 1927 after the original organization - a group of military officers, veterans and civic leaders known as the Society of the Massing of the Colors - disbanded. Now, chapters around the country conduct the ceremony each year.

The Puget Sound Chapter, founded in 2001 with the merger of the Tacoma and Seattle chapters, is the only chapter in the Pacific Northwest and includes Alaska, Oregon and Idaho. Its missions include patriotic education, ROTC programs and, of course, the annual Massing of the Colors ceremony.

Each June, the chapter sponsors the Northwest Youth Leadership Conference at Pacific Lutheran University, and its flag program helps educate school children around the region about significance of the National flag and other flags. The chapter also sponsors 52 Junior and Senior ROTC programs in its region, including Alaska and American Samoa, and holds an annual banquet to honor cadets who have excelled in their programs.

Organizations wishing to take part in the processional should call Col. Carroll Dickson at 253.566.5870.

Filed under: Community, Military, Tacoma, Ceremony,

February 10, 2015 at 10:07am

Washington National Guard 351st Aviation Support Battalion deploying to Kuwait

351st Aviation Support Battalion was honored in a deployment ceremony at the Washington National Guard Army Aviation Sustainment Facility #1 on JBLM, Feb. 8. Photo credit: Gary Lott

Dozens of military helicopters were the background for an important ceremony that took place last weekend at the Washington National Guard's Flight Facility on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

That's because all eyes were on Washington National Guard soldiers from Detachment 1, B Company of the 351st Aviation Support Battalion.

Last summer, these servicemembers had an important role in Washington state by assisting with battling wildfires that plagued Central Washington. 

Bravo Company provided critical maintenance operations for the Guard's helicopters as they dropped 2.5 million gallons of water over the Carlton Complex and Chiwaukum Complex fires. The unit ensured the helicopters continued to operate by working long hours into the night.

This summer, these servicemembers will be tasked with another important role, but this time thousands of miles away in Kuwait.

The unit of more than 35 Washington National Guardsmen will perform aviation maintenance support operations while deployed.

During last weekend's ceremony, the deploying servicemembers were surrounded by their fellow service members, friends and family, who were shown a special slideshow of some of the many recent accomplishments of the 351st. Attendees were also treated to the national anthem and Army Song performed by the 133rd Army Band, and of course, cake!

The 351st cased its colors during the deployment ceremony as part of its preparation to deploy to Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

This is the first deployment for the 351st and will be the first under the command of Capt. Daniel Clemons.

Along with the traditional casing of the colors and remarks from the commander, deployment ceremonies are also important venues to connect with the families of the deploying soldiers.

Military families serve, too, and are left to maintain their households and communities while their service member is deployed.

>>> Pfc. Aaron Hamrick cherishes a hug from his daughter during a deployment ceremony for members of the 351st Aviation Support Battalion, Feb. 8. Hamrick will be joined by more than 30 other members of his battalion for a deployment to Kuwait to perform aviation maintenance support operations. Photo credit: Gary Lott

Although families may initially feel as if they are being left behind, the reality is these families receive support and training before, during and even after deployments, as well as the security of 24/7 support throughout.

These are just a few of the major impacts that make Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Programs & Family Programs across the nation so crucial and impactful for those still serving from home.

Spouses and significant others were provided with various resources and contacts and given the opportunity to connect with and ask questions of Washington National Guard Family Programs staff members. Military youth were given USO deployment bears that allow them to insert a photo of their deploying parent.

The adjutant general for the Washington National Guard, Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, joined other general officers and commanders for the departure ceremony.

This ceremony not only provided support from their peers and bosses, but also provided service members with the security of knowing that their families will be taken care of during their deployment.

January 5, 2015 at 6:17pm

JBLM combat engineer Spc. Asa Bingham receives Purple Heart

Spc. Asa Bingham, right, a combat engineer assigned to the 555th Engineer Brigade received the Purple Heart medal during a ceremony at JBLM Jan. 5. Maj. Gen. Terry Ferrell presented the medal. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Mark Miranda

A combat engineer assigned to the 555th Engineer Brigade received the Purple Heart medal during a ceremony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Jan. 5. Spc. Asa Bingham, 22nd Engineer Clearance Company, suffered traumatic brain injury from a roadside bomb blast during deployment to Afghanistan in January 2014.

"I was hit twice - once in December 2013, but at the time I didn't really feel the effects from that first one," said Bingham, a native of Pismo Beach, Calif.
"It was the one January 3rd (2014) that I was medically evacuated, transferred to Germany for treatment before being sent home."

Maj. Gen. Terry Ferrell, commander, 7th Infantry Division presented the medal to Bingham. He took the opportunity to thank the soldiers of the 22nd Eng. Clearance Company for their mission success and to talk about U.S. Army current topics.

Bingham was in good spirits after receiving the Purple Heart, and joked in his closing remarks, "I want to thank the ‘Hooligans' (22nd ECC) for the support, getting me through that last deployment ... it was a blast."

Bingham receives treatment for his TBIs and returned to full duty status with the 22nd Eng. Clearance Company.

December 13, 2014 at 9:32am

Words & Photos: National Guard Birthday Run at Camp Murray

Washington National Guard's Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, left, finishes the final bend of a 5K run around Camp Murray with Family Programs Director Lt. Col. Don Brewer to honor the National Guard's 378th birthday. Photo credit: Gary Lott

"It is important to celebrate the birthday of the Army National Guard in order to take a little time to remember that we are part of an enduring, professional organization built on irreplaceable values with a unified purpose," said Lt. Col. Don Brewer, Washington National Guard Family Programs director. "Sometimes, it is easy to take for granted very important things and in the process, forget who we are and where we have come from. Celebrating the birthday of the Army National Guard gives us an opportunity to remember and be grateful."

Then, everyone went on a run.

Dozens of servicemembers and their families braved the high-wind storms and cold morning weather to join together and run the perimeter of Camp Murray for a National Guard Birthday Run Dec. 12. The event had two goals:to honor the many contributions of the National Guard, as well as to provide senior leadership with the opportunity to join their enlisted servicemembers - and their families - to stress the importance of morale, resiliency and fitness.

"These types of events are extremely important because they help build confidence, trust and friendship between people who might not normally spend time together outside of the workplace," said Brewer.

>>> The Washington National Guard's Family Programs Director, Lt. Col. Don Brewer, shares with the crowd of servicemembers the importance of "never forgetting" the accomplishments of those servicemembers that came before. 

>>> Members of the Washington National Guard participated in a Camp Murray Fun Run Dec. 12 to honor and build awareness for the National Guard's 378th birthday, which will take place Dec. 13. Photo credit: Gary Lott

>>> A line of Washington National Guard servicemember runners start their 5k trek around the perimeter of Camp Murray in front of the iconic minuteman statue that sits affront the Washington National Guard headquarters. Photo credit: Gary Lott

National Guard History

Founded in 1630, the Massachusetts Bay Colony - comprised of more than 5,000 European men, women and children - made the long voyage to the New World, or now called United States of America. With the long and uncertain move away from their homeland, the leaders of the New World wanted a ready, willing and able group of citizens that were ready at a moment's notice to protect and serve the new continent. Thus, the National Guard was formed into existence with a direct declaration signed into law on Dec. 13, 1636.

The National Guard is the longest serving military branch, and was in place even before the United States was "officially" a country. These community warriors became the "Always Ready, Always There" force structure that to this day are still protecting the homes of the communities they serve.

Just in the past year, the Washington National Guard became a "savior" for many Washingtonians, by assisting with the plaguing wildfires that hit Eastern and Central Washington, as well as assisting with the devastation caused by the SR 530 landslide.

These two emergencies are perfect examples again of how the National Guard may serve in many of the same capacities that our active-duty military branches do, but in a much different and impactful light.

>>> Sgt. 1st Class Robert Chinneth of the Washington National Guard was running faster than the five miles per hour speed limit sign through the RV Park next to American Lake. Photo credit: Gary Lott

>>> The Assistant Operations NCO of G1, 1st Sgt. Berndt, runs besides the barbed-wire fences along the perimeter of Camp Murray.

National Guard Component

The National Guard may be viewed upon as similar to all the other military branches, and in many ways that statement is correct. The servicemembers deploy, attend basic training, conduct regular physical training and sacrifice their lives for this country. The major difference between the National Guard and other branches, is the majority of guardsmembers were born in, serve in and, one day will die in the same state that they serve. All servicemembers serve this nation, but only one branch gets the opportunity to defend and constantly support the places they have always and may always call home.

National Guard Birthday Run

Joint Services Support Directorate for the Washington National Guard (JSS), Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve (ESGR), Recruiting & Retention Battalion (RRB) and the National Guard Association of Washington (NGAW) held the National Guard Birthday Run to honor the sacrifices of those before and to raise awareness and pride for those serving today.

"Being willing to come out and run on a cold, wet and dreary morning with a handful of other soldiers and airmen portrays a positive message that the Adjutant General of Washington still enjoys the camaraderie that happens when you get out and work hard with your people," said Brewer. "It is a positive message of no leader being above his or her people."

The Washington National Guard's Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, joined the run to help stress the importance of the National Guard's accomplishments, as well as to emphasize the importance of soldier morale, fitness and resiliency overall.

"The older I get the more I understand how important it is to never forget our history," said Daugherty. "Forgetting the history of our organization can facilitate forgetting our values and our purpose. Conversely, remembering the history of our organization can help us to remember our values and purpose."

It seems apparent that the Washington National Guard will not forget those that have gone before them; those service members who have shed blood, sweat and tears in order to make the organization what it is today.

"Taking a few minutes to remember our history can ultimately produce a renewed sense of pride and gratitude that just might make a difference in the way that we approach our jobs and our families on any given day," added Daugherty.

>>> Sgt. 1st Class Robert Chinneth was the first place male finisher for the Camp Murray National Guard Run Dec. 12. Chinneth finished the 5k-plus run around Camp Murray in just over 20 minutes. Photo credit: Gary Lott

>>> Sgt. 1st Class Hopkins, Staff Sgt. Murray and Spc. Gines finish the final stretch of the Washington National Guard's National Guard Birthday Run. Photo credit: Gary Lott

>>> The Washington National Guard's Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, left, receives support from his servicemembers while crossing the finish line of the 5K run around Camp Murray. Daugherty ran alongside the Joint Services Support and Family Programs Director Lt. Col. Don Brewer to honor the National Guard's 378th birthday. Photo credit: Gary Lott

>>> The spouse of a Washington National Guard servicemember shows off the Recruiting and Retention Battalion "Swag Bag" that she received for finishing with the top female time.

>>> The Washington National Guard's Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, reiterates the importance of National Guard history and the impacts of the guard throughout the centuries following a National Guard Birthday Run around the perimeter of Camp Murray Dec. 12. Photo by Gary Lott

>>> The youngest attendee of the National Guard Birthday Run, held by the Joint Services Support Directorate Dec. 12, joins the Washington National Guard's Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, to conduct the official National Guard 378th birthday cake cutting ceremony. Photo credit: Gary Lott

November 21, 2014 at 12:16pm

New chief master sergeants of McChord Field

Col. David Kumashiro, left, 62nd Airlift Wing commander, presents Senior Master Sgt. Erik Johnson with his promotion certificate to chief master sergeant Nov. 19 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Sam Coleman

Three senior master sergeants from McChord Field were selected for promotion to chief master sergeant and part of the top one percent of the enlisted force Nov. 19.

The Air Force released the list of 479 senior master sergeants selected for the promotion and the following Airmen are McChord's newest chief master sergeant selects:

  • Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Frese, 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle fleet manager
  • Senior Master Sgt. Erik Johnson, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron blue aircraft maintenance unit assistant superintendent
  • Senior Master Sgt. Jerry Miller, 62nd Aerial Port Squadron passenger services superintendent

The average score for those selected was 671.45, with an average time in grade of 3.21 years and time in service of 21.84 years. The average score for enlisted performance reports was 135. Average decorations score was 24.22, and the average USAF Supervisory Exam score was 69.91. The average board score was 393.84.

Those selected will be promoted according to their promotion sequence number beginning in January of 2015.

November 11, 2014 at 2:27pm

Tacoma honors veterans at War Memorial Park

Members of the Washington Army National Guard’s Honor Guard prepare for the Day of Remembrance Service held at the War Memorial Park in Tacoma. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Remembrance is a simple experience.

At exactly 11 a.m. at the War Memorial Park in Tacoma, several hundred veterans, family members, friends and a handful of elected officials met on a cold and windy morning overlooking the Narrows Bridges to remember all veterans.

"We are here to pay honor to those who have served," said Bill Baarsma, a former mayor of Tacoma.

The Tacoma Historical Society and the Edward B. Rhodes/Parkland, Post 2 American Legion presented the eighth annual Day of Remembrance Service.

>>> Cadet Senior Chief Petty Officer Chris Godfrey stood at attention during the service. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

"This is becoming a wonderful tradition," comment Col. Andy Leneweaver, USA (Ret). "It's also interesting to note that this ceremony is the only one being done within Tacoma."

Washington Army National Guard soldiers and Stadium High School Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps carried the colors.

>>> Approximately 250 veterans, family members, friends and elected officials attended the eighth Day of Remembrance Ceremony. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

The Brass Unlimited played one patriotic song after another, the notes sometimes becoming lost in the high winds.

Speakers were short and to the point as they thanked veterans for their service.

For one veteran, the ceremony by the Narrows brought a wistful smile.

"It is good to be remembered," said Charles Johnson, a 94-year old World War II veteran of Omaha Beach.

>>> Charles Johnson, a 94-year old Army veteran of World War II and Omaha Beach, smiled broadly during the ceremony. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

November 11, 2014 at 7:52am

5 Things To Do Today: Veterans Day, Washington's 125th birthday, 1111 Fest, Jonny "2 Bags" Wickersham ...

Guitarist Jonny "2 Bags" Wickersham will rock Tumwater's Pints Barn with bassist Brent Harding tonight.

TUESDAY, NOV. 11 2014 >>>

1. The historical epoch of Armistice Day began with the Nov. 11, 1918, signing of a ceasefire between Germany and the Allied powers of World War I. President Woodrow Wilson initiated it. In the South Sound, we're reminded of war's impact more often than people in most other cities. But even so, it's not often enough. Our freedoms, our heritage and the way of life we enjoy today are made possible because of our military veterans. Today's 96th anniversary of Veterans Day honors all of America's veterans for their patriotism, service and sacrifice. And for their families, there is no better time than now to recognize them and give thanks for the remarkable sacrifices they have made. For stories and events honoring our local veterans, visit our Veterans Day section.

2. The opening line of Awake: The Life of Yogananda may serve as a general barometer of how viewers will receive this documentary about the revered titular yogi: "I was conscious in my mother's womb." Surely the film will be sought out by disciples of the meditative and (intendedly, at least) deeply spiritual practice of yoga, and they might drag along some skeptics. The former will gasp at the revelation; the latter will snicker. And those who thought they were open-minded will raise eyebrows that may remain continuously arched for the next 86 minutes. Catch the film at noon, 2:15 and 7 p.m. in The Grand Cinema.

3. Nov. 11, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison signed the proclamation admitting Washington to the Union and, with this year marking Washington's 125th anniversary, the Washington State Historical Society and the Office of the Secretary of State are hosting a celebration to honor the milestone from 1-4 p.m. in the State Capital Museum. The event will feature a re-creation of the telegram delivery that announced Washington's statehood at 3:09 p.m. making it precisely 125 years ago, along with music by The Total Experience Choir, Kim Archer and The Oly Mountain Boys, dancing by breakdancers and square dancers, plus speeches, exhibits, cake and more.

4. Have you been enjoy the 11 days leading up to tonight's 1111 Fest? Of course you have. The Peterson Bros. 1111 joint on Hilltop Tacoma has hosted a different brewery since Nov. 1. Tonight, it all aligns into one huge party with live music, raffles and beer.

5. If the music scene in Orange County, California, has one iconic figure, it's Social Distortion. From the first wave of OC punk bands, Social D were initially one of the more ambitious ones, recording several sides of what would become self-defining classics: "The Creeps (I Just Wanna Give You)," "Moral Threat," "1945," "Playpen," and the song (and album) that would've become archetypes no matter what county they were made in. Social D guitarist Jonny "2 Bags" Wickersham and bassist Brent Harding will perform at 7 p.m. in Pint Barn.

LINK: Tuesday, Nov. 11 arts and entertainment events in the greater Tacoma and Olympia area

November 8, 2014 at 11:11pm

Seahawks mural unveiled at new USO Northwest Center at SeaTac Airport

Servicemembers from local military branches posed in front of a large-scale 12th Man flag that hid a new Seattle Seahawks mural for an unveiling at the new USO Northwest SeaTac Center Nov. 7. Photo credit: Gary Lott

At Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Sgt. 1st Class Bryant Hargrove spends long days recruiting new members for the U.S. Army.

At home, Hargrove's wife spends long nights trying to recruit the soldier into the 12th Man army.

"It's always a great experience going to Seahawks games and I'm coming along," said Hargrove. "I may not be a fully-converted fan just yet, but I've been supporting the 12th man a little more than my friends and family expect."

He was one of the dozens of servicemembers from all branches present for the Seahawks mural unveiling at the new USO Northwest Center at the SeaTac International Airport Center Friday, Nov. 7.

>>> Sgt. 1st Class Bryant Hargrove, a U.S. army recruiter based at JBLM, shows off some of the new Bose speakers and other Seahawks swag donated for the Internet Café inside the new USO Northwest SeaTac Airport Center. Photo credit: Gary Lott

It's hard to ignore the excitement of Seahawks football.

"It just shows support. I remember when I was in Iraq and my XO was still the biggest Seahawks supporter," said Hargrove. "Knowing that we get all that support back and that the entire organization recognizes the military and all that we do, is truly special."

The theme of community, bonding and support is front and center in the halls of the new USO center.

>>> A U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest member takes a moment to reflect on the USO "Every Moment Counts" campaign at USO Northwest SeaTac Center Nov. 7. The campaign honors servicemembers and highlight the moments that matter most for troops and their loved ones. Photo credit: Gary Lott

>>> Each tile on this wall represents some form of remembrance and/or contribution made to the new 7,500 sq. ft. USO Northwest SeaTac Airport Center. Photo credit: Gary Lott

"It's a community bonding event," said Staff Sgt. Charles Spencer of the Washington National Guard while tightly gripping a signed Doug Baldwin football. "There are a lot of fans in this area and a lot of military members, so it's nice to overlap the two and see the outpouring level of support for the military and local community."

These types of high-exposure events work well at shining some light on military efforts.

"It highlights some of the important things that just a small portion of our United States military does for us," said Spencer. "The Seahawks constantly help to bring those to the forefront."

>>> Staff Sgt. Charles Spencer of the Washington National Guard joins Seagal cheerleaders in front of a 12s Seahawks-supporting flag. Photo credit: Gary Lott

>>> Servicemembers from local military branches posed in front of a large-scale 12th Man flag that hid a new Seattle Seahawks mural for an unveiling at the new USO Northwest SeaTac Center Nov. 7. Photo credit: Gary Lott

If it were up to the USO Northwest Center staff, they would've had thousands of people attend the mural unveiling, but decided to keep some of the surprises for the grand opening in February 2015.

"We were debating on if we should have 3,000 or just 300 people here for this event, but we decided to stick with 300 since we will be unveiling the whole center here in a couple of months."

>>> Tech Sgt. Conner Welborn of Joint Base Lewis-McChord smiles with his two little Seahawk supporters during a Seahawks mural unveiling event at the USO Northwest SeaTac Airport Center Nov. 7. Photo credit: Gary Lott

USO Northwest at SeaTac International Airport Center will host a grand opening celebration in February 2015.

"I'm standing here with Blitz (the Seahawks Mascot) and it's a wonderful moment for the USO," said USO Northwest Executive Director Don Leingang. "When we moved here, we knew that we are never moving again."

Liengang was referring to the new USO Northwest Center down the hall from the existing one at SeaTac Airport.

"We're gonna be here forever and forever happens only because you have great partners," he added.

The USO staff was ready to upgrade in size.

"We were busting at the seams," said Bill Baker, Service Center manager for the USO Northwest Center.  

Through an agreement and donation from the Port of Seattle, the center will open up in a new, 7,500 square foot center to better support the movements and travels of more than 100,000 servicemembers every year.

>>> A Super Bowl ring magically finds its way on a Coast Guard servicemember's finger at the new USO Northwest SeaTac Center. The Seahawks adopted the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest as their military service branch for 2014. Photo credit: Gary Lott

"(Seattle Seahawks) is an organization that supports the troops," said Baker. "Their Salute to Service campaign for this month is providing 10 percent of all proceeds from Salute to Service clothing wear back to the USO Northwest. It's just a way for them to say thank you for the service that our servicemembers do - day in and day out. They know that we will be here to do that 24/7 and that this community really does value and support the service that they do for our country, day in and day out."

Filed under: USO, Army, National Guard, Ceremony, Sports,

November 4, 2014 at 12:29pm

Lakewood City Council states Veterans Day Proclamation, honors military residents

Lakewood high school ROTC students added fanfare to the city of Lakewood's annual Veterans Day Proclamation. Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

Monday, Nov. 3, the Lakewood City Council celebrated Veterans Day early with its annual Veterans Day Proclamation.

The council honored Lt. Gen. William Harrison (Ret.) - Lakewood's mayor emeritus, President of the AUSA's Captain Meriwether Lewis chapter and of the Pierce Military and Business Alliance Carlene Joseph and Rally Point/6 founder and CEO Anne Sprute. They also proclaimed November to be Veterans Appreciation Month.

The ceremony featured members of Clover Park High School and Lakes High School ROTC programs as color guards, and a video presentation honoring veterans. Each service was recognized as veterans were asked to stand as their service anthems were played.

Lakewood Deputy Mayor Jason Whalen spoke about the contributions the honorees have made to the community, and congratulated them for their accomplishments over the course of the year. The council thanked Harrison for his service to the city and congratulated him on the recent dedication of Harrison Hall, the new 7th Infantry Division headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord named in his honor.

Joseph received the AUSA's 2014 Maj. Gen. Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Medal, an award for members who've significantly contributed to advancing the interests of the AUSA. The council thanked Sprute for her tireless efforts in support of veterans through Rally Point/6, one of the most ambitious veteran support organizations in the state.

>>> Lakewood Deputy Mayor Jason Whalen honors Rally Point/6 CEO Anne Sprute at the Lakewood City Council meeting Monday, Nov. 3. Photo by Kevin Knodell

All the honorees received a city of Lakewood challenge coin. The coin, a military tradition, is meant to symbolize the community's military roots. The young city of Lakewood has deep military roots indeed.

>>> Lt. Gen. William Harrison (Ret.) / photo credit: Kevin Knodell

After leaving the Army, Harrison was one of the leading members of the campaign to incorporate the city in 1996, and was elected Lakewood's first mayor shortly after. Owing to its proximity to JBLM and Camp Murray, Lakewood has a large population of both active-duty military members and their families. Many decide to reside there permanently after leaving the service, with a large veteran population as well.

October 26, 2014 at 12:06pm

Tacoma Screw honors veterans with a giant flag

Members of the Pacific Lutheran University ROTC Color Guard raise the flag at Tacoma Screw. Erected to mark the company’s 70th anniversary, the 180-foot flagpole is the largest in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

"That is one big flag" said a Pacific Lutheran University ROTC cadet as she looked up at Tacoma Screw's new flagpole. Towering at 180 feet tall, the pole supports a flag measuring 40 feet by 80 feet. It's the tallest flagpole in the Pacific Northwest.

Built to commemorate Tacoma Screw's 70th anniversary, the company's credit services and marketing manager Michael Howard said that it was also built to honor veterans. A flag-raising ceremony was held at the company's Tacoma headquarters Oct. 25.

Howard told the crowd gathered to see the dedication that as the company came up on its anniversary, they tried to figure out the best way to celebrate it. He said they decided the best way to celebrate their success was to give back to their community and those who protect it. "We remain proud of our Tacoma roots and our Tacoma legacy" he told the audience.

One of the speakers was Don Dossa. His father and two brothers all served in the military. "You maybe thank a checker at the store or a friend every day, but veterans don't hear thank you enough," Dossa told the crowd.

>>> PLU ROTC military science instructor Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Hughes hooks up the flag at the dedication ceremony for Tacoma Screw's new flagpole. Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

American Veterans Department of Washington Commander Charles Wharton commended Tacoma Screw for showing its support for veterans. He gave the crowd a lesson on the history of the American flag and its significance.

Members of the PLU ROTC Color Guard raised the flag. The program's professor of military science, Lt. Col. Kevin Keller, said organizers asked a few weeks ago if his cadets were available after the previous flag raisers dropped out.

>>> Pacific Lutheran University Professor of Military Science Lt. Col. Kevin Keller listened to speakers at the dedication ceremony for Tacoma Screw's new flagpole Oct. 25. Photo by Kevin Knodell

>>> American Veterans Dept. of Wash. Commander Charles Wharton addresses the crowd at the dedication ceremony for Tacoma Screw's new flagpole.Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

This fell outside of the color guard's typical event types, they usually present (much smaller) flags for ceremonies and sporting events. It took everyone on their color guard roster - and then some. "This is more than just the color guard out here," Keller said.

It is indeed, one big flag.

Howard said that this moment was two years in the making. The flag was so tall, they needed approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and Joint Base Lewis McChord. It required wading through a lot of regulations, paperwork and signatures.

It also required cash.

Howard wouldn't say how much specifically it cost, only saying it cost "a serious chunk of money."

>>> Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

Filed under: Ceremony, Community, Tacoma, Veterans,

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