TCVA is always busy pursuing our missions to "build a community" and preserve and present the history of TACAMO. Aside from our reunions, which are projects in and of themselves, we have taken on some pretty difficult challenges, outlined below.
The loss of VQ-3 Crew 4 off of Wake Island on June 21, 1977 has exemplified for all of TACAMO the importance of our mission and the closeness we all are/were to that "ultimate sacrifice". Many good lessons were learned from this tragedy.
The lesson that TCVA has taken from this event was the way the families and shipmates were handled immediately after the event. Due to the security profile of the TACAMO mission, at the time, families were simply informed that their loved-one died in an accident on a TOP SECRET mission. Surviving shipmates may still deal with some "survivor's guilt". This sort of counseling just wasn't common in those times. The accident and Crew 4 sorta faded away, although still in our memory.
The TCVA has made it its mission to preserve the honor and memory of each and every individual that perished on that flight. We are attempting to get the Navy and U.S. government to atone for its neglect in honoring these fine young men officially and honorably. We are attempting to place a memorial stone at either Arlington National Cemetery or the "Punchbowl" (The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific).
TCVA was successful in raising over $10,000 from our membership to pay for the memorial stone and associated costs. However, the Dept. of the Army has been less than cooperative. They claim that as 6 of the 16 who died in the crash have received their bronze plaque from the V.A., they are not entitled to be "double recognized" with an additional mention of their names on a memorial stone in their cemetery. Another regulation is that for "Group" recognition, no individual names are permitted. Our research has demonstrated that both of those regulations have been "exempted" many times in other memorials around the cemetery's. We are pushing hard to have an exemption made for us, as well.
Wake Island Accepts Plaque
We can report a success story. The Operations Office at Wake Island, run by the Air Force has accommodated us by accepting and displaying a plaque, there. (See the image above/right of this article) It's a 30" X 30" black granite plaque with laser etched images of each crew member and their names. TCVA has arranged for its delivery to Wake Island, later this year (2016). Until then, it will be displayed on the VQ-3 Quarterdeck.
TCVA will continue its pursuit of this honorable recognition. For this, we have a total "Prudent Limit of Endurance" (PLE)
Yesterday, June 8th, began as we all gathered at the Punchbowl chapel. The sun shone through the open grate windows reflecting on the photo of Crew 4. As we made our way up the memorial walk to the monument, we could see a light mist in the distance. We gathered at the top overlook, the mist fell on us as if they were tears of joy. Everyone took notice of this while preparing for the ceremony. As Dennis “Coach” Warren, CAPT (USN Retired) began the ceremony, the sun illuminated the entire crater of the Punchbowl.
CAPT Warren was joined by Vern Lochausen CAPT (USN Retired) and CDR Adam Hancock, Operations Officer of Strategic Communications Wing ONE and former VQ-3 Skipper. With Diamond Head in the background, two VQ-3 Sailors steadied the centerpiece which was a framed photo of the Crew 4 granite stone memorial that will be placed at Wake Island Operations. To the far right stood 16 crew members representing Crew 4. Behind the seated guests, was a Navy flag detail and firing detail. On the grassy mound beyond, stood an Air Force Staff Sergeant bugler accompanied by a VQ-3 Sailor holding the flag and nearby Marine Corps Sergeant poised to play the bagpipes.
CAPT Warren declared that Crew 4 had been ‘relieved of the guard’. The crew was called to attention, then marched over the hill with honor into eternity.
After the ceremony, active duty Sailors from VQ-3, who were key to this event, gathered around the memorial while Cheryl Vos sprinkled Wake Island sand from the end of runway 10 over the memorial. A 5 year quest to recognize and memorize TACAMOPAC Crew 4 has been achieved and now the crew has a memorial in their honor. The TACAMO Community Veterans Association would like to thank all who contributed to this endeavor. We can now say, “Mission Accomplished”.
Yes ! Mission Accomplished !
TCVA's mission for the past 5 year has been to find all of the Crew 4 families and provide an explanation, memorial and closure for them. This, we have finally achieved. And, like so many other missions of this magnitude, it was achieved with the help and support of a team.
That team, be they active participants or financial supporters are too numerous to mention individually. So, I'll recognize the groups that played roles in this endeavor. Individuals know who they are and can accept our congratulations for helping to accomplish this mission.
Crew 4 Families and Friends
Financial contributors to the Crew 4 Quest
STRATCOMMWING-1 Leadership and Staff
VQ-3 Leadership and Staff
VQ-3 Crew 2 and additional Shipmates
CINCPACFLT/Navy Region Honor Guard
National Cemetery of the Pacific Leadership and Staff
Bugler - TSgt. David Diamond (USAF)
Bagpiper - Sgt. Noah Berry (USMC)
Honor Life Memorials
Wake Island 1977 & 2015 Leadership and Staff
TCVA Crew 4 Quest Volunteers
TCVA Board of Directors
Mahalo Nui to all who made this possible.
Mike Vos, Founder & Executive Director of TCVA