Rarely does a week go by that Sacramento area residents Jack G. and Brenda Payne do not head out to sail in their eye-catching, 26-foot-long, decorative, pirate ship-themed yacht, Sea Eagle. But their most recent sailing trip on the Sacramento River was for a purpose far greater than leisure sightseeing.
Sea Eagle was on a mission on the Sacramento River, along with three other yachts – Ranger, Eslo and Ramo’s Fizz – to honor former American prisoners of war, those from this country who went missing in action and other U.S. veterans, primarily those who served during World War II.
The event, which was held on the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 17, was the sixth edition of the annual Forget Me Knot celebration. A similar tribute was also held on the same day on the Missouri River in Grafton, Ill. and on the Illinois River in Alton, Ill.
In commemoration of the sacrifice of World War II veterans, the Northern California Fleet of the Classic Yacht Association presented the local event, which was observed by an estimated 300 people and featured the laying of memorial wreaths on the water and tossing of red roses, as well as the sprinkling of dried flower petals that were acquired from a garden in Normandy, France, which is the site of the D-Day invasion.
In all, there were three wreaths, the first of which was laid in honor of all POW, MIA and World War II veterans.
The second wreath was laid as a tribute to all veterans and the last wreath was laid in honor of veterans who have passed away.
While Sea Eagle and other boats sat in the water at the Sacramento Marina, just south of Old Sacramento, a special gathering occurred at the marina building above the docking area.
During this event and in the presence of various spectators, including uniformed members of the U.S. Army, Jim Goff of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary presented an American flag to Beverly Partridge, international representative of the Northern California Fleet of the Classic Yacht Association.
The flag, which had been flown over the nation’s Capitol on Sept. 11, 2004 and was recently presented to Les Cochren, vice commodore of the Northern California Fleet of the Classic Yacht Association, from
For the past 65 years, Sladkova has cared for the crash site of Lt. Virgil P. Kirkham, the former P-47 pilot who, at the age of 20, became the last recorded U.S. Army Air Force pilot killed in Europe during World War II.
Following the presentation of the flag, the aforementioned yachts headed to the site of the wreath laying ceremony, below the Rio City Café, the popular Old Sacramento restaurant overlooking the river at 1110 Front St.
Sea Eagle led the other yachts underneath the lifted center span of the Tower Bridge and made its way to an area very close to the historic Delta King.
Prior to the laying of the wreaths, the Del Campo High School ROTC honor guard made an appearance at the Rio City Café.
Although spectators on the land felt honored to observe the occasion, they were not the only people who cherished the moment.
While traveling along the river on the day of the ceremony, Brenda shared her views regarding the event.
“There’s a happiness on shore when people are watching such a thing,” Brenda said. “Even though it’s a very solemn event, it’s wonderful and heartwarming to know that people are remembering the veterans. Fallen heroes should be remembered and those who are still alive even more so, because they’re the reason that their country is great today. And we don’t want to forget all the other men and women who are out there right now for us for that same reason. (The event is held) so we don’t forget how many (people) gave their lives to keep our country the great country that it is today. (Sea Eagle) is quite proud to be the lead boat today, but we have some beautiful classics behind us here today that are all incredible, incredible boats. And there are wonderful people who are doing this (event) with us.”
Brenda added that the selection of Sea Eagle as the lead boat was quite appropriate, considering its connection to World War II.
“Sea Eagle, something that makes her kind of extra special for today and one reason I’m so happy for her to be a part of this is because it was primarily a father-son project,” Brenda said. “Jack (G.) Payne and Jack (A.) Payne, his dad, worked very hard together for 10 years creating all of the beautiful artwork that you see on Sea Eagle that makes her like a little museum. And his dad was in his 80s when he was doing this, and if you think about that, that’s incredible. And he was a World War II veteran and his story, in particular, he was on his way to Pearl Harbor, on a ship, when Pearl Harbor was bombed. And, of course, they turned him around and brought him back through the Golden Gate in San Francisco, and there they were received with such excitement from all of the people on the shore. People were lined up from every spot on the shore cheering, knowing that their soldiers were coming to keep them safe.”
Like his father, Jack G. is also a veteran, as he served in the Army Special Forces.
Another participant of the event was Alameda resident Beverly Partridge, who said that she has a personal connection to a special veteran, who touched her life.
“My dad was Daniel Squire, a colonel in the United States Army, and he was part of the first groups of casual officers to go to England after Pearl Harbor,” said Beverly, whose husband, Robert Glenn Partridge, was also a World War II veteran. “And he was on Eisenhower’s staff planning invasions. He didn’t go over on D-Day, but shortly after that, he did go to France. Today is extremely meaningful for me, because it is a day of remembrance of veterans, and I almost didn’t get through taps, because it makes me think of my dad’s funeral.”
Kent Ramos, another participant in the event, said that although his father, 86-year-old World War II veteran Bill Ramos, was not present at the wreath laying ceremony, the event had a personal, special meaning for him.
“It’s really a special event for me to think about (Bill) and what he did for this country,” Kent said.
Summing up her emotions regarding the day’s Forget Me Knot celebration, Brenda said, “This (event) is something more important than a party or a parade. This is something bigger than all of us.”