In August 2016, the USS Seattle (AOE-3) Veterans Association held it’s 8th annual crew reunion in Washington, D.C.  Among those present was WGS System’s Business Development Manager, Bob Gillette.  Bob served on board Seattle from 1997 – 2000.  When speaking about his time on the Seattle, Bob has said, “My time in the Navy was a defining period in my life.  I look back fondly at my tour on the Seattle and recall the many great men and women I served with.  We were a family and, to this day, I consider some of my shipmates to be my closest friends.  I was honored to serve with each and every one of them.”

This year’s reunion was made special when several of Seattle’s Plank Owners had the honor and privilege of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.  In an emotional ceremony that included the playing of Taps, nearly 75 of Seattle’s crew members and their families from her 36 years of service (1969 – 2005) rendered honors and shared a moment of silence in recognizing the service and sacrifice of those who gave their lives in service to the United States.

At the closing banquet of reunion, an empty table was set for those service members whose whereabouts are unknown:

The table that stands before you is a place of honor. In setting this table, we acknowledge those missing from our celebration tonight. And we remember them.

The table is small, and set for one — Symbolizing the vulnerability of a lone prisoner against his captors. Remember!

The tablecloth is white — Symbolizing purity of intention in responding to the nation’s call to arms. Remember!

The chair is empty, for they are not here. Remember!

The wine glass is inverted — They cannot toast with us this night. Remember!

The slices of lemon — Reminding us of their bitter suffering. Remember!

The grains of salt — Representing the countless tears of the families. Remember!

The single red rose — Reminding us of loved ones who keep the faith awaiting their return. Remember!

The burning candle and yellow ribbon — Symbolizing everlasting hope of a reunion with the missing. Remember!

Remember! — All who have served alongside them; we who have donned the same proud uniform, being sworn to the same faith and allegiance — We will never forget their sacrifice. Remember!

Remember! — Until the day they return home, or find eternal peace, we will remember.

 As the names of the crewmembers that have passed away were read aloud, the ship’s bell rang in their honor.

Fair Winds and Following Seas…