Yukon honors fallen Navy heroes

Three Oklahoma sailors from WWII Navy sub memorialized in Yukon Veterans Museum eremony

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Active-duty U.S. Navy sailors, stationed at Tinker Field Air Force Base, stood in formation during the ceremony: Front, LT Jason Jones; second row, IT2 Daniel Alvarez, ABE2 Elijah Whittington and AE2 Daniel Choe; third row, AWVCM Matthew Waxenfelter and CM1 Juan Dobles; and back row, PSSN Logan Sloan. (Photo by Carol Mowdy Bond)

By Carol Mowdy Bond

Contributing Writer

Three World War II U.S. Navy sailors were memorialized during a Yukon Veterans Museum ceremony Tuesday at the Dale Robertson Center, 1200 Lakeshore.

U.S. Navy AM2 Otisa Williams joins Leslie Dietrich of the Daughters of the American Revolution to place a memorial wreath at the base of one of the honored sailors’ photo on an easel. The DAR provided memorial wreaths, and four DAR members were present. (Photo by Carol Mowdy Bond)

Radio technician first class Robert Vernon Hansen of Oklahoma City, machinist mate chief Lee Carol Stanford of Ardmore and pharmacists’ mate Ross Lillard Capshaw of Oklahoma City, were among the 80 U.S. Navy sailors who served aboard the USS Grayback submarine that was lost during World War II.

Lt. Col. (ret.) Rick Cacini, founder and curator of the Yukon Veterans Museum, was moderator for Tuesday’s ceremony.

“These Oklahomans, three of the 80 heroes who served aboard the submarine USS Grayback, are being honored here today,” said Cacini, Yukon’s Ward 1 City Council member. “Since the USS Grayback was sunk during wartime, they could not be given the respect and honor they deserve. Today we are here to pay our respect that they so richly deserve.

U.S. Navy Capt. Anthony Barnes from Tinker Air Force Base (center), visiting here with local Navy veterans, offered remarks on the USS Grayback sunk in 1944 during World War II. (Photo by Jack Hinton)

“All military members are ingrained with the belief that no man be left behind. Sometimes, during war, circumstances prevent this solemn task. After many years of searching, the USS Grayback’s final resting place has been located.”

Unfortunately, after an exhaustive search, no family members of Hansen, Stanford, or Capshaw could be located to attend this week’s memorial ceremony.

Navy Capt. Anthony Barnes of Tinker Air Force Base said

Yukon Veterans Museum board member Jerry Icenhower with members of the U.S. Navy: PSSN Logan Sloan, ABF1 Michael Salhany, CM3 Zachary Marable, and AM3 Otisa Williams. (Photo by Jack Hinton)

Tuesday’s ceremony was bittersweet because about 75 years have gone by without family members or friends knowing what happened to the sailors aboard the Grayback.

The Grayback was awarded eight battle stars and other awards for service, and is still considered one of the most successful WWII subs.

District 22 State Sen. Stephanie Bice addresses the audience. (Photo by Carol Mowdy Bond)

The U.S. Navy sent the Grayback to WWII’s Pacific Theater of War. The sub ran nine missions/deployments. It was attacked many times by the enemy and took damage many times.

In 1944, the Grayback departed Pearl Harbor for its 10th combat mission and headed back to the Pacific to reload. Japanese forces attacked and took the Grayback down.

In June 2019, the submarine and its 80 crew members were found 1,400 feet below the ocean surface off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, in their final resting place.

Active-duty U.S. Navy sailors, stationed at Tinker Field Air Force Base, participate in the ceremony: From left, LT Jason Jones, NC1 Peggy Jones, ACS Brian Day, AM2 Otisa Williams, CM1 Juan Dobles, PSSN Logan Sloan, CM3 Zachary Marable, LS3 Joel Paolo, ABE2 Elijah Whittington, AE2 Daniel Choe, ABF1 Michael Salhany, AWVCM Matthew Waxenfelter, and MACS Christopher Gibbs.
(Photo by Carol Mowdy Bond)

MEMORIAL WREATHS, BELL RINGING

The Daughters of the American Revolution provided memorial wreaths, and four DAR members were present for Tuesday’s ceremony.

Framed pictures of the Grayback, Hansen, Stanford, and Capshaw were situated on easels in front of the auditorium, each covered with black satin.

After the satin coverings were removed, Cacini read each of the three sailor’s names. A member of the DAR and a U.S. Navy sailor carried a wreath and placed it at the base of each sailor’s easel, and the easel of the Grayback.

The ringing of bells signifies the end of a sailor’s watch at sea. Petty Officer Peggy Jones rang bells for Oklahoma’s three sailors who perished on the USS Grayback. (Photo by Carol Mowdy Bond)

Petty Officer Peggy Jones rang bells for Oklahoma’s three sailors who perished. The ringing of bells signifies the end of a sailor’s watch at sea.

Yukon’s Larry Taylor played taps.

Active-duty U.S. Navy sailors stood in formation during the ceremony. There are now 1,500 active duty sailors stationed at Tinker AFB.

Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Yukon, speaking on behalf of herself and Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon, who was also present, told about a member of her family who served in U.S. armed forces. Bice also spoke to the importance of the memorial service.

U.S. Navy members visit before Tuesday’s memorial ceremony: From left, MC1 Leslie Long, NC1 Peggy Jones, LT Jason Jones, Bob Holland, ABF1 Michael Salhany, PSSN Logan Sloan, and IT2 Daniel Alvarez. (Photo by Jack Hinton)

U.S. Senator James Inhofe’s field representative Bryson Panas, speaking on behalf of Inhofe and U.S. Senator James Lankford and the U.S. Senate, explained how important the ceremony was for today’s generations to remember the sacrifices made for our freedoms.

Larry Taylor plays “Taps” on the trumpet for the three fallen heroes. (Photo by Carol Mowdy Bond)

Panas told about a family member who served in U.S. armed forces, and the impact that has made on his children.

Yukon’s Mayor Mike McEachern also addressed those present, expressing his gratitude for those who perished on the Grayback.

Father Rex A. Arnold of Yukon’s St. John of Nepomuk Catholic Church offered the closing prayer.

The Yukon Veterans Museum provided refreshments and tours of the museum, 1010 W Main, were provided after the ceremony.

Homer Cobb of Yanda & Son Funeral Home and Cremation Services provided programs.