Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
May 29, 2000
Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me to this sacred ceremony where we stand together to honor those who sacrificed everything for their families, friends and our country.
I'd also like to thank Sandy Noquez, director of Tahoma National Cemetery; Fran Agnes, past National Commander of the American Ex-Prisoners of War and Chairman of the Tahoma Cemetery Support Group; the other members of the Tahoma Cemetery Support Group; and, of course, all the commanders and members of the veterans' service organizations here today.
We're here to honor and remember the thousands of men and women who died defending our country and our freedom and stopping tyranny around the world. Memorial Day has its roots in the Civil War. Since then, sadly, we have seen the ranks of those fallen swell because of too many wars: World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. In all conflicts, no matter what we choose to call it, people and soldiers have died.
Who were these soldiers in uniform? They were called "Yank," and "GI" and "Swabby," and "Flyboy." They were "WACs" and "WAVES," "Leathernecks" and just plain "Joe." But here at home, we had other names for them, like mom and dad, son and daughter, brother and sister, sweetheart. The people who fought and gave their lives were black, white, yellow, red.
During World War II, African-American and Japanese-American soldiers gave their lives for our country even though their loved ones at home lived in segregated communities or in camps behind barbed-wire fences because they believed in freedom and the essential goodness and destiny of America.
We want all of our soldiers to come home. In all wars, we want to reclaim the fallen so they can come home to be buried, and honored, close to their families and loved ones.
Today, I'd like to salute the men and women in the military services who have worked so hard for so many years to bring home the remains of our soldiers wherever they have died in battle. While you often deliver bad news, you also bring closure to families who have spent years wondering about the fate of their son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister, sweetheart.
This is especially true in unconventional wars, such as Vietnam, where aviators and others worked almost alone far behind enemy lines. And where prisoners of war became propaganda tools to celebrate enemy victories-and to dishearten families and friends back home. As a result, many families still don't know the fate of their loved ones. Are they still being held prisoner? Dead?
The work of our military detectives, known in the military as the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, a few weeks ago brought bittersweet closure to two Washington families who had lost fathers and husbands decades ago.
First Lieutenant Jim McQuade, who went to Hoquiam High School, finally made it home on May 13 to be buried at home 27 years after he was shot down in Vietnam. As the United States withdrew its forces from Vietnam, Jim McQuade and the rest of the aviators of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade were being pushed to the limit. On June 11, 1972, McQuade's unit received a radio call that a friend and fellow helicopter pilot had been downed by enemy fire. "Okay, let's go see if he's alive," McQuade said, and he flew off to rescue his friend. He never returned.
Last October, Jim McQuade's sister and brothers, Judi, Jeff and Jack received from the Army a St. Christopher's medal bearing the inscription, "James R. McQuade. Sept. 8, 1971. Love Mother and Judi." Along with DNA evidence and dental records, the Army was able to identify Lieutenant McQuade's remains at the crash site and return them for burial in Hoquiam. Lieutenant McQuade earned a Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism in Vietnam. And his earthly remains are home from a Vietnamese jungle.
A Laotian jungle recently yielded the remains of another Washington hero, Air Force Col. George W. Jensen. He was buried on May 15 in the Arlington National Cemetery, 34 years after his plane was shot down. These scientific detectives received a tip about a former North Vietnamese soldier who had been bragging in a bar about shooting down an American plane decades ago.
The tip led them to what remained of the plane Colonel Jensen commanded with a six-person crew. The site was in deep jungle - a location where farmers had slashed and burned the trees to grow crops. Colonel Jensen's remains were identified through dental records and a piece of a Kodak camera he used to carry. After 34 years of jungle and fire, Colonel Jensen is home.
More than 2,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen remained missing in action in Vietnam alone. The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office continues its search for the missing in all corners of the world. More than 8,000 Americans are missing from the Korean War, for example. Let us particularly remember them today.
We also must remember the thousands of men and women who died in uniform from the Revolutionary War to Somalia. We salute all of them.
In their honor, let us all observe the Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. today when people across the nation will pause and thank those who have served. We thank them for our freedom, our liberty and our independence that we enjoy every day because of their sacrifices.
Thank you and God bless you all.