The Unknown Sailors

Over fifty years after these boys first set sail, their ship has finally come in.

It wasn't until the men started retiring and meeting each other at reunions of old shipmates that a common theme emerged: No one seemed to know anything about the U.S. Naval Armed Guard--including the military. The unknown sailors banded together in a national organization and pushed for memorials to the Armed Guard, most of them at former training facilities. Still, there were none in the national cemeteries where military veterans are buried. Those cemeteries were filled with monuments to other branches of the armed services, but the U.S. Armed Guard had been overlooked.

Jones, the chairman of the eighty-member Colorado chapter of the Armed Guard group, decided to push for a memorial at Fort Logan--the first at a national cemetery. He started researching the process and filling out a mountain of paperwork. "They wanted to know our bylaws and that sort of thing, I guess to make sure that we were a legit organization," he says. After that, he had to get permission from the National Parks Administration and the director of Fort Logan. Expecting some confusion about the Armed Guard's role in WWII, he was surprised when permission was quickly granted--as long as the chapter, like other groups with memorials there, paid for its installation and took responsibility for repairing any future damage.

The final step was to send a letter to former members of the Guard asking for $1,600 in donations. That was the easy part: Men who had been waiting for fifty years to be recognized for a difficult job well-done quickly sent their checks to purchase a memorial of their own.

At the cemetery, Jones looks up the path toward a memorial for the merchant marines who served in World War II. Psalm 107 is inscribed on its plaque:

They that go down to the sea in ships,
that do business in great waters...
These see the works of the Lord,
and his wonders in the deep.

"We were the bastards of the Navy," Jones says slowly, looking back at the empty spot on the lawn. "It'll be nice to think that when people walk by here in the future, there will be something to say who we really were and what we did.

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