CORONA DEL MAR, Calif.—As Americans around the country continue to hold ceremonies in honor of the thirteen fallen soldiers killed during the U.S. retreat from Afghanistan on Aug. 26, members and guests of the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club (BCYC) held a solemn remembrance on Sept. 15, using time-honored maritime and military traditions.
In the days after the tragedy, BCYC volunteers and staff created a fallen soldier tribute with a reserved sign at one of the seats of the club’s bar, with a framed photo of the thirteen fallen soldiers flanked by a glass of beer at the ready, a traditional gesture symbolizing their loss.
A ceremony was then organized and led by BCYC Port Captain, Mark Jensen, himself a veteran who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
Jensen was in Portugal at the time the American warriors were killed, and upon hearing the news, he sent an email to BCYC Vice Commodore Kari Konapelsky to whom he reports, requesting that the club fly the national ensign (American flag) at half staff for the next 13 days to honor the fallen soldiers. He also asked if he could organize a special ceremony during the club’s nightly retiring of the colors on Sept. 15.
“I know that a lot of other military personnel have been lost in that (Afghanistan) war,” Jensen told The Epoch Times. “But nevertheless, these were the last. I felt strongly that we needed to do something to honor these soldiers, because those men and women made the ultimate sacrifice at the end. It didn’t need to happen that way, but it did and they deserve our appreciation and respect for their service.”
Konapelsky responded with a photo of the club’s American flag already at half-staff and a thumbs up approval of the remembrance ceremony when Jensen returned home.
BCYC Commodore, Rhonda Tolar, who attended the tribute, told The Epoch Times, “BCYC has long had a proud history of upholding dearly held American maritime traditions. We felt this was an appropriate tribute, particularly because we are so blessed with the freedoms all Americans enjoy each day, thanks to the service and sacrifice of those who died in the name of our country, like the 13 who perished far from home in Afghanistan on August 23rd.”
The Tradition of Colors
The tradition of colors began with the British Royal navy and has continued with the U.S. Navy. Cannons or guns are fired, or a ship’s bell rung, at sunset when the flag is taken down, as a sign of respect.
In the days when sailing ships were armed with cannons, it could take as long as twenty minutes to load and fire a gun. When a ship fired her guns in salute, she rendered herself powerless for the duration. By emptying their guns, the ship’s crew demonstrated to shore batteries and forts that they were no threat.
Over time, this gesture became a sign of respect, with both shore and ship gun batteries firing volleys.
‘Attention on Deck’
BCYC has observed the time-honored naval tradition of the colors—the daily raising and lowering of the American Flag—ever since the club’s founding in 1958.
Tradition calls for the colors to be hoisted smartly each morning and lowered ceremoniously at dusk. Colors is a tradition observed at many yacht clubs throughout the U.S., and at all military bases throughout the world.
During colors, members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute, and any service person present in uniform should render a salute.
Each evening at BCYC, as the sun sets over the harbor and the Pacific Ocean, a ship’s bell is rung, and the command “Attention on Deck” is announced to staff, members and their guests. All those on club property in sight of the flag stand and face the flag in silence, with their hands over their hearts, until the flag is fully lowered. Many veterans stand at attention and salute the flag as it is lowered each evening.
At sunset on the 15th, Jensen, with the help of BCYC Tradition’s Committee Chair, Elizabeth Barden, asked members and their guests to rise and silently face the flag. Barden began the remembrance with what is referred to as a death knell, the ringing of a ships bell twice three successive times during the silence.
“This is a solemn occasion for this evening during our colors ceremony,” Jensen told the crowded room after the bells tolled. “Tonight, we remember and honor our 13 fallen American Warriors.”
Jensen then read the names of the fallen soldiers after a single bell toll was rung for each.
“These are the 13: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20 of Rio Bravo, Texas. Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, of Roseville, California. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover, 31, of Utah. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, or Corryton, Tennessee. Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamunga, California. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California. Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska. Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, of Wentzville, Missouri. Navy Hospital Corpsman and Marine medic Max Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio.”
Jensen finished the brief but moving remembrance. With tears in his eyes and choked voice, “Please remain silent and at attention while the colors are retrieved.”
He then gave the final command concluding the ceremony when the flag is raised from half-staff to full and then brought down. “Raise the colors to full staff. Retrieve the colors,” and a final two ship’s bells rang out among the silent crowd.