JBLM Centennial Celebration: A century of service
There was singing, dancing, speeches and a variety of activities as hundreds of community members, local dignitaries and service members gathered on Lewis Main to celebrate Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 100th birthday of Camp Lewis Aug. 18.
A century ago, Camp Lewis opened, and officers and recruits arrived for training before being deployed to France for service during World War I in 1917.
During the Aug. 18 event, America’s I Corps Band played a number of patriotic tunes to start off the ceremony at Watkins Field, followed by opening remarks by Cyrus Habib, Washington state’s lieutenant governor.
“The men and women of JBLM give me hope,” Habib said. “There’s a spirit of selflessness and collaboration that gives me hope. Happy 100 years; I rest and sleep easy knowing that you will be here keeping watch over the next 100 years.”
Lieutenant General Gary Volesky, I Corps commanding general, also spoke at the event.
“What a wonderful day this is,” Volesky said. “I’m extremely honored to be part of this celebration. How special this is: today is a once in a lifetime event.”
Volesky spoke about JBLM being a “premier installation to train (service members) to deploy, fight and win,” and how the installation is the most requested duty station for American service members. He also told some of his own history at JBLM, including graduating from ROTC here and service with the 75th Ranger Regiment.
“I just wish it hadn’t taken me 30 years to get back here,” he said. “What really sets this installation apart is the commitment (of service members and leadership) to the families and communities. We are a family — it’s America’s joint base.”
The ceremony also included a 15-minute narration of Camp Lewis and JBLM history, read by Elizabeth Vanek, management support specialist at JBLM Headquarters. Vanek dressed for her role in early 1900s dress, from dapper hat and parasol to lace spats on her shoes.
Friday’s event began with a street fair along North Third and Pendleton avenues, with food and other freebies, as well as a historic look at Camp Lewis and other local military and community groups.
There were several costumed participants, dressed in period pieces, including twin brothers Chandler and Chad Franks, seniors at Rogers High School in Puyallup. The brothers live in Fife, Wash., and are volunteers with the 4th U.S. Infantry Company C — a reenactment group of the regiment that was stationed at Fort Steilacoom prior to World War I.
The two have an interest in history and the military. Their mom, Amy Seek, is an Army veteran. She served in the Army’s 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, Chandler said.
“I will probably never serve in the military because I have medical problems, but I enjoy putting on the uniform with Company C,” he said.
Also at the street fair was a performance by Skyler Ostendorf, an 11-year-old SKIES Unlimited dancer, who charmed the crowd with his spirited Fred Astaire-style solo tap routine.
Multiple World War I era vehicles were on display, including a military ambulance that was admired by many a young child.
Eight-year-old Lahaina Richardson posed for a photo in a large cardboard military cutout Soldier, provided by the Lewis Army Museum for the event. She said she borrowed from museum staff a modern combat style helmet like her father wears.
The child, a third-grader at Chloe Clark Elementary School in DuPont, attended the event with her mom, Rhea Richardson. Lahaina’s dad, Staff Sgt. Kellen Richardson, is a drill sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
“Daddy is gone a lot, but it was fun to wear his (kind of) helmet,” Lahaina said.
The event ended with an invitation-only reception at the Lewis Army Museum, which is set to reopen to the public Thursday after a yearlong renovation. The reception was an opportunity to interact with military senior leaders for JR ROTC Cadet Staff Sgt. Kirill Perfiliev, from Foss High School in Tacoma, an immigrant from Kyrgyzstan.
Sixteen-year-old Perfiliev moved to the United States with his parents three years ago and has a dream of going to the U.S. Military Academy. He’s hoping to get a sponsorship to West Point through Congressman Denny Heck, who was a speaker at the reception.
Perfiliev said it felt great to shake Volesky’s hand at the event and was a true honor to talk with Col. Nicole Lucas, JBLM garrison commander, a West Point graduate.
“I’m so glad to be here for the celebration,” Perfiliev said.