Run to Tahoma honors fallen members of the veteran family

Soldiers fold a flag at Tahoma National Cemetery during part of
Soldiers fold a flag at Tahoma National Cemetery during part of 'The Unforgotten, Run to Tahoma.'
— image credit: Kevan Moore

This past Saturday’s “The Unforgotten, Run to Tahoma” made it plain that veterans know how to take care of other veterans in this life and the next.

“They came from different parts of this vast nation to eventually call Kitsap County home,” noted Kitsap County Veterans Advisory Board Chairman Mark Lowe in his eulogy. “This is the place they called home finally. We don’t know their stories. But we do know that they served their country, that they are brothers and sisters in arms.”

The celebration of life ceremony for “The Unforgotten, Run to Tahoma” honored 21 unclaimed, deceased veterans and one veteran’s widow with words, music and a Missing Man flyby at the Kitsap County Coroner’s Office. In addition, two surviving families requested that their deceased parents be included, bringing the total to 25 departed. Hundreds of veteran bikers and others then transported the remains to a final resting place at Tahoma National Ceremony.

Lowe said that those being transported were special because they signed up to defend this country and volunteered “to forfeit their lives for the freedom and security of this great nation.” He also said they would not be forgotten.

“For some, they have no family, but I say not,” Lowe said. “We are here. We are their family today and for the future and we will remember them. We don’t just meet today to honor these veterans we come here to honor all those lost in battle and during peace … Today, we will escort these veterans to remember. Next year, we might not have anyone to escort, but we must still meet to remember these and other veterans that have gone before us. We will meet here every year to make sure our brothers and sisters will always be remembered.”

Mike Carroll, a chaplain with Chapter 5 of Combat Veterans International, also spoke of the dead as being members of a family gathered to honor them.

“Most of the people that we will transport today were unclaimed by friends and family,” he said. “So, what happened is we, the Kitsap County Veterans Advisory Board, Combat Veterans International, the veterans biking community and the patriots of Kitsap County adopted them. So, welcome to the family. Those who don’t normally hang out with this crowd, look at all these pretty bikers who are in your family now.”

The ceremony at the coroner’s office was interspersed with singing from PFC James Knickerbocker that at times brought some of those gathered to tears.

He sang “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from “Les Miserables,” “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen and “Ballad of the Green Berets” by Barry Sandler. Music was also provided by Tineke Dahl, Tim Buck, Len Hembd and Mary-Cathern Edwards of the Duncan Creek String Quartet. Bagpiper Kieran Prince performed “Hector the Hero” and bugler Kent Larabee played “Taps.”

Following the ceremony at the coroner’s office, hundreds of bikers formed a cortège guided by Elite Motor Escort, Inc., under the auspices of Combat Veterans International. The procession stretched as far as the eye could see on State Route 16, I-5 and State Route 18 as it made its way to Tahoma National Cemetery. Several onlookers on overpasses or those that had been stopped at on-ramps stood solemnly to honor the dead.

Once at the cemetery, a full military funeral was held, including a flag folding and gun volley. American Legion Post 239 Commander John Yaw served as chaplain at the ceremony.

“Because of veterans like our comrades here our lives are free, our nation lives and the principles of freedom, justice and democracy survive as they have for over 236 years,” he said. “When our country called, our departed comrades did not shirk the responsibility.”

Nine of the 25 departed are World War II era veterans, one served in WWII and Korea; eight during the Korean War era; one Vietnam veteran; and four Cold War veterans.

The deceased include at least one member from every service. Nine served in the Army; six in the Air Force; three in the Marine Corps; three in the Navy; one in the Coast Guard, and one in the Merchant Marine.

Three of the departed are female: one WWII Army Private; one Navy widow and one Army widow.

Those that were transported to Tahoma National Cemetery include the following: Melvin G. Anderson (Air Force); James G. Bacigalup (Coast Guard);

Harold H. Baldwin (Army); Derrell Bennett (Air Force); Leslie Blakely (Navy); Lawrence L. Burger (Marine Corps); Donald L. Curtiss (Merchant Marine); James A. Davis (Air Force); William D. Graham (Marine Corps); Robert L. Grigg (Navy); Eugene E. Hill (Army); Donald Johnson (Air Force); Robert A. Johnson (Army); Glen A. Marsh (Army); Lyle W. McDonald (Navy); Richard E. Neakrans (Army); Dorothy Oliver (Navy widow); Ross M. Pentz (Army); Myles J. Potts (Air Force); John Rustuen (Army); Cyrill H. Spencer (Army); Hubert F. Taylor (Air Force); Kenneth Winter (Marine Corps); Don and Thela McCoy (Army).


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