By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Since 2008, members of the “Evergreen State Platoon — 3041,” made up entirely of Marine Corps Vietnam War veterans who are also Washingtonians, have met the last full weekend of July to share a laugh, swap war stories and honor their six brothers in arms who were killed in action.
“We just decided we're going to do this every year until we're all gone,” said Doug Simpson, a member of the platoon and this year's reunion organizer.
Simpson, 63, said 2013 marks 45 years since the 80-member group was first sworn in as the Evergreen State Platoon by then-Gov. Dan Evans in July 1968.
Farm in Carlsborg
This weekend, Simpson said, platoon members met at member Chuck Looney's farm in Carlsborg to reminisce and honor their fallen with a bell-ringing ceremony, 21-gun salute and playing of taps at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The reunion started Friday and will end with a breakfast today.
The reason for the continued reunions, Simpson said, is simple.
“To heal each other,” Simpson said.
“[The reason] hasn't changed, and it's working.”
Simpson said he and his platoon-mates have been able to find 46 surviving members so far, though some have died of cancer and, in a few instances, suicide since the war.
“They're scattered about, but I'd say the bulk, 80 [percent] to 85 percent, are right here at home [in Washington],” Simpson said.
Simpson, for example, lives in Port Orchard, while Guy Iredale, another organizer of the reunions, lives in Port Angeles.
A new member each year
Each reunion since 2008 has seen at least one newly found member attend, Simpson said.
This year's event is the first time for Walter Ness, whom the group chose this year to be the keeper of the U.S. flag displayed at each reunion, Simpson added.
“It was the original flag that was given to us [when the platoon was created],” Simpson said.
Members of the platoon first got together after the Vietnam War in 1988, Simpson said, but started meeting on a regular basis only in 2008.
For the platoon's 40th anniversary, Simpson said surviving platoon members met at 2 p.m. July 12 at the State Capitol in Olympia 40 years to the hour after the platoon was made official.
Since then, an average of 30 to 40 members and their families have met at various platoon members' homes, with Simpson hosting last year's event.
“We just come together and get reacquainted every year,” Simpson said.
To memorialize the platoon's story, Simpson said he's working on a novelized account of veterans' experiences during the war called The Boys from Washington.
A manuscript of the book should be ready not long after Labor Day, Simpson added.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.