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Unclaimed Kitsap County veteran gets a proper send-off
Hundreds of bikers, their formation stretching for miles, escorted the remains of six veterans from Kitsap County to Mount Tahoma National Cemetery on May 24 as part of “The Unforgotten, Run to Tahoma V.”
Many of the hundreds of attendees at some point choked up or were brought to tears — whether by the playing of “Taps,” the volley of gunfire, the folding of a flag, or the sight of proud men carrying the remains of former brothers in arms, in separate ceremonies at each location.
The Run to Tahoma was originally organized as a way to escort the remains of at least one unclaimed veteran from Kitsap County to the national cemetery. This year, that veteran was Walter L. Brown, who served briefly in the U.S. Army.
In his eulogy, Mark Lowe, a Kitsap County Veterans Advisory Board member, noted that many people in today’s world take for granted that they are instantly connected to family and friends through social media, instant messaging and email. For Brown, though, that was not the case.
“There are those who are not connected to anyone, like our lone brother here,” Lowe said. “He’s the reason we’re here today. We are his family. He, like many, should never be forgotten. We are here to celebrate Walter Brown’s life. We don’t know a lot about Walter Brown. We do know that he served briefly in the U.S. Army in 1951 and was medically discharged.”
Lowe said Brown received a small Veterans Administration pension and spent his final days in a veterans home before passing away.
“So, we are here today to say goodbye to Walter,” Lowe said. “We’ll give him a proper send-off that any great veteran would be proud of. We will stand in for the family of this unforgotten veteran. We will receive the flag that a family member would have received. We will cringe when we hear the ceremonial volley of gunfire. We will shed a tear when we hear the bugler’s final calling. We will go around, talking to one another, until the time feels right to leave. And, just like family, we will remember this day.”
Lowe talked about the special bond that veterans share with each other.
“We have made a vow to never let a brother or sister be forgotten, that we will honor them with proper ceremony and escort them to their final resting place,” Lowe said. “We will think of Walter when we visit Tahoma National Cemetery as well as others that we have escorted there in the past. We will remember them when we come to the county administrative building and see the flags and names on the wall of the ceremonial memorial that we place here in the future.”
Lowe went on to note that Brown was not alone in making his final journey.
Also escorted that day, at the request of family members and friends, were Michael F. Shaughnessy, Norman N. Holgate, Robert J. Brown, Frederick L. Hughes and Kenneth D. Hughes. All five were Navy veterans. Three served during Vietnam and one served in Korea.
Walter and Robert Brown are not related, however Robert was well-known locally for his role playing Abraham Lincoln at various festivals and events.
Frederick and Kenneth Hughes were brothers. Kenneth was also a retired assistant chief of the Bremerton Fire Department.
The ceremony included a prelude of classical and popular music played by the Duncan Creek String Quartet. The Marine Security Battalion and Navy IMF personnel from Bangor provided color and honor guards.
Specialist James Knickerbocker, 133rd U.S. Army National Guard Band, sang the National Anthem. Once again this year, Knickerbocker moved many to tears when he sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Melinda Hughes, the daughter of Kenneth Hughes, sang Amazing Grace. The Coast Salish Anthem (Chief Dan George Prayer Song) was sung by Nigel Lawrence of the Suquamish Tribal Council.
In the past, the Kitsap County ceremony was held at the coroner’s office in West Bremerton. Due to the popularity of the event and the lack of parking, the ceremony was moved this year to the plaza of the Kitsap County Administration Building in Port Orchard.
The Run to Tahoma ceremony is sponsored by the Kitsap Board of County Commissioners, the Kitsap County Coroner’s Office, the Kitsap County Veterans Advisory Board, and Combat Veterans International.
The Run to Tahoma cortège was guided by Elite Motor Escort, Inc. under the auspices of Combat Veterans International.