EVERETT, Wash. (NNS) -- On March 22, 2014, in a small town about an hour northeast of Naval Station Everett, a major landslide occurred in which 43 people were killed and 49 homes were destroyed. Of those people whose lives were lost, two victims were U.S. Navy Sailors.
In memorial of the lives lost, chief petty officers and chief petty officer selectees from various commands assigned to Naval Station Everett erected a flagpole at the location of the landslide.
“Thirteen people were pulled out of the debris on the first day,” said Oso Fire Department Chief Willie Harper. “Over the course of the next month, responders found 43 more bodies.”
Cmdr. L. John Regelbrugge III and Chief Navy Counselor Billy Spillers were among the departed.
“It’s particularly special to the Chiefs Mess and the Navy, but it’s also a broader reflection on what our core mission is and that’s preserving the American way of life,” said Chief Machinist’s Mate Tim Golden. “We also have to think about how are we better serving our communities and working with our civilian counterparts. A perfect example of that is how we coordinated with the Oso Fire Department who was gracious enough to let us have this memorial ceremony here today.”
Memorials, both official and impromptu, have been placed at and around the site since the event. Near the affected area alongside State Route 530, three rows of 43 cedar trees were planted for each one of the victims.
“As chief petty officers and members of the Navy, we should be giving back to the community,” said Golden. “This event is particularly special because it is in remembrance of the [Intermediate Maintenance Facility] officer-in-charge and Billy.”
In the aftermath of the landslide, 11,000 tons of wreckage has been removed from the affected area and efforts are ongoing to create a permanent memorial commemorating the victims.
“We’re a family,” said Chief Culinary Specialist (selectee) Jamie Vannostrand. “It’s been an incredible experience being able to take part in this ceremony and give back to the community.”
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