Military Appreciation Day has always been a significant event at the Capitol. Previously held in the House chambers, the benches along the walls would be full of men and women in uniform, with spectators in the gallery. The Senators would join their colleagues in the House to offer joint tributes.
This year, Feb. 7, the event at the Capitol looked a little different. House leadership decided not to participate, so the event was moved to the smaller Senate chambers where we were joined by several House members. Organized a little differently to keep the resolutions and comments moving out of respect for our guests time, the tribute to our military still took the better part of the morning.
Seven separate resolutions honoring various slices of the military community including POW/MIA, veterans of multiple wars, contributions of veterans from minority communities, and the sacrifice of our fallen and their families, touched the surface of the debt we owe our military veterans as we expressed the appreciation of a grateful state.
My request to cosponsor the resolution “Concerning The Fifty-Second Anniversary Of The Capture of the U.S.S. Pueblo By North Korea,” might seem a little strange. No part of Pueblo or Pueblo County is in Senate District Two, I’m not a veteran and my father served in the Army. Growing up in Oregon, the ocean was close but the nearest naval base was six hours and another state away and I’m no expert on Naval history.
However, my hometown of about 1000 people was also the hometown of Duane Hodges, the only person to lose hislife during what became known as the Pueblo Incident.
Duane, a 21-year-old sailor at the time of the capture and his death, had joined the Navy shortly after high school as the Vietnam war was raging.
After his death, his father erected a small memorial in the front yard of the family home, complete with an illuminated flagpole, so that flag could and did fly 24 hours a day, seven days a week as a reminder to all of us that Duane would never be coming home.
After 11 months in a North Korean prison, the crew was released. Sometime later Captain Bucher of the U.S.S. Pueblo came to our small town to meet with Duane’s parents. I don’t recall a lot about what was said at a school assembly where Captain Bucher spoke, but what did stick with me all these years was his saying he would never again hear the Star Spangled Banner being played without singing the words.
That is my connection with the U.S.S. Pueblo and it was my to honor to renew the call for North Korea to return our ship to the people of the United States.