Days of gloomy skies and rain burst into radiant sunshine on Monday, May 27, as a huge assemblage of visitors gathered at Tahoma National Cemetery for the annual observance of Memorial Day there. This year’s program broke with tradition in that there was no keynote speaker but rather an invitation extended to Gold Star family members to remember and share memories of those military personnel killed in action and now at rest in the national cemetery. This change was in keeping with the initiative of the National Cemetery Administration and Tahoma National Cemetery to insure that no veteran suffers a second death, which occurs when their name is no longer spoken or their story is told for the final time.
Opening the Memorial Day Ceremony, the Stearman Group of Puget Sound conducted a fly-over to an appreciative round of applause. Tahoma National Cemetery Assistant Director Jennifer Dehorty delivered the Welcome Address while Director Thomas Yokes provided a national cemetery update on the events of the past year. As he has done for many years, Joe LaVoie, Chairman of the Tahoma National Cemetery Support Group, served as Master of Ceremonies. The Gateway Concert Band and the Issaquah Singers performed a number of musical selections and Plateau Veterans executed the Rifle Salute. Al Zarb read the yearly roll call of deceased Tahoma National Cemetery volunteers and national cemetery buglers Jack Datin, Bernie Moskowitz, and Jack Prindle sounded Taps. Chaplain Daniel Shaw, Lt. Commander USN Reserve, gave the Invocation and the Benediction. Scout Troops from Kent recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
—Gold Star Mom Remembers—
Charles Brandon Hester wearing a Washington State University jacket. WSU was the school Charlie loved but never got the chance to attend. Courtesy of Jody Flanig.
Private First Class Charles Brandon Hester, United States Army, was killed in action at the age of twenty-three while serving in Baghdad, Iraq, on May 26, 2007. Upon learning of her son’s death, Jody Flanig wrote the following note to those who had contacted her to offer their condolences: “Good morning, I am the proud mother of PFC Charles Hester and would like to thank all of you for taking the time to honor my son. I have been receiving and reading the Stryker news ever since my son was sent to Iraq and although I had my share of worries I always thought that he would be coming home. This has been a really long week for the family but I have to tell you that we have never been more proud of Charlie and this great country for all the support that we have been given. I will continue to pray for all of you that still have children and loved ones over there and hope that you never have to feel this great void such a loss creates.” On this 2019 Memorial Day, Jody commented about the journey she has been on over the past twelve years: “It’s funny how you lose track of the things you said and did so early in the process, but those are still true words and feelings. The anniversary date of Charlie’s death each year gives our family the true meaning of Memorial Day. I have been able to stay in contact with Charlie’s wife and my granddaughter, a feat that many families have not been able to accomplish. I love telling everyone we meet all about my boy and painting rocks with his Facebook information so others can see his smiling face and learn about his quirky sense of humor.” In addition to his mother, PFC Hester is survived by his wife, Roxanne, then three-year-old daughter Elizabeth, brother Daniel and two sisters, April and Mary, who travel together each year to Fort Worden to celebrate Charlie’s life. Collins image.