VFW Post 334 holds special memorial honoring those buried at sea

By Jim Newell
Review Writer
The chime of the bell was an ominous, yet grateful, reminder of the sailors who fought and died in service to their country, and now lay at rest in the deep.
VFW Post 334 service members, family and friends gathered for a special memorial service at the Veterans Memorial Park, honoring veterans buried at sea, with a special tribute to sailors who served, and died, aboard the USS Lexington.
And while Veterans Day is Nov. 11, the occasion of the ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 5, held a special meaning: kamikazes bombarded USS Lexington, “The Blue Ghost,” on Nov. 5, 1944, killing 54 of the sailors aboard ship.
The memorial honoring military personnel buried at sea was a labor of love for the late Joe Zikewich, a veteran who served aboard the Lexington and a long-time Orion resident, said Jim “Mouse” Muys, Chaplain for VFW Post 334.
Zikewich’s friends and comrades remembered Joe and what the memorial meant to him.
“This was Joe’s idea, so that those buried at sea would not be forgotten,” Muys said.
Tom Fisher read the names of the 51 sailors who died during the attack on the Lexington, with three additional chimes of the bell for three unidentified sailors.
“Without Joe Zikewich there wouldn’t be a peacoat, there wouldn’t be a memorial to those lost at sea,” said JoAnn Van Tassel, who gave the welcome speech at the ceremony. “They have no other place to go, no other marker.”
Zikewich was on the deck of the Lexington and slid the sheet-draped bodies of his fallen comrades into the sea, VFW 344 Post Commander Jim Hubbard said. “And he always thought about the parents who would never see their child again…and that really influenced him.”
The memorial features a Navy peacoat draped over a lone chair, a sailor’s cap and American flag resting on the seat.
“Joe was full of so much energy, he just led the way. This memorial meant a lot to him,” Hubbard said. “Joe used to come and sit at the memorial. He’d turn on the lights and just sit there. I never met a man who was so kind-hearted.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *