Ceremony held for transfer of USS Colorado teak decking to USO Center

The USS Colorado (BB-45) battleship, decommissioned and sold for scrap decades ago, has a new home at the USO Northwest SeaTac Center, as its teak decking will now serve as the new center’s entry floor.

Donated by Boeing, the flooring arrived at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday (Feb. 7).

“The Boeing Company has been the guardian of this precious USS Colorado teak decking for the last 54 years. We are overjoyed to transfer the guardianship to the USO for the next 50+ years. We honor the USS Colorado sailors and marines by never forgetting their sacrifice on behalf of our country and our freedom,” said Pamela Valdez, Boeing KC-46A Tanker Support & Training IPT and USONW Board Member.

United States Navy Petty Officer 1st Class William McKenna carried the ceremonial piece of teak decking from the Boeing Development Center to the location of the new USONW SeaTac Center on the airport’s mezzanine level.

“We are very excited the Boeing Company has chosen the USO Northwest to be the recipient of this great piece of history,” said Executive Director Don Leingang. “Our organization truly understands the significance of this donation and is honored to be the new caretaker of this teakwood planking for as long as the USO exists at SeaTac Airport.”

The decking and McKenna was escorted by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Color Guard through a flag line provided by the Patriot Guard Riders, active-duty service members and USONW volunteers.

“I am in awe of the fact thousands of guests every year will be able to stand on the same decking used by WWII sailors fighting for our country on the high seas,” said SeaTac Center Manager Bill Baker.

Two years after the USS Colorado had been sold for scrap; Boeing purchased the teak decking, then installed it on cafeteria walls in 1961. Upon completion of the new USO Northwest Center, the decking will cover 1,500 square feet.

Among the spectators at the ceremony were two WWII crewmembers of the USS Colorado, and family members as well: Whittaker ‘Moose’ Hernion, Larry Clements with his wife Marjory and son Ron, and Sherri Lee, daughter of a crewmember. Crewmember Frank Weber was also going to attend, but the icy conditions prevented his travel from Oregon.

Here are some photos from the event:


Petty Officer 1st Class William McKenna carries a piece of the USS Colorado, followed by a TSA Agent, USO Northwest Volunteer of the Year Doug Hoople, and Patriot Guard Riders.


As the audience looks on, Petty Officer 1st Class William McKenna shows USS Colorado crewmember Whittaker “Moose” Hernion the ceremonial plank.

And more info and photos from Pam Fernald, who was also at the event:

It was an honor to attend this ceremony and be in the company of 2 of the original members from the Colorado.

I thought the ceremony for this teak flooring from the USS Colorado was very sobering and evoked many emotions from attendees.   Hearing the details that were shared had me thinking what a great history lesson this would have been for school kids to have attended.

“Among the spectators at the ceremony were two WWII crewmembers of the USS Colorado, and family members as well: Whittaker ‘Moose’ Hernion, Larry Clements with his wife Marjory and son Ron, and Sherri Lee, daughter of a crewmember…”

I wanted to add that the nicknames of both gentlemen were noted.  Mr. Clements was an electrician on the ship and his nickname was ‘ Sparky.’  Everyone got a chuckle out of that.  ‘Moose’ is 97.  Sheri Lee, whose father was an original crewmember and has passed away, was there with her father’s American flag.

When The Boeing Company originally purchased the teak decking, it was installed on the walls in the Developmental Center cafeteria.    I’m a 38 year Boeing employee (retired) and when I was hired in 1964, the first location I worked in was the Developmental Center.  I remember eating in that cafeteria, but didn’t realize the significance of teak planks on the wall.
I found a couple of photos of the USS Colorado and you can see the teak planking on the deck.

Screen Shot 2014-02-08 at 8.57.09 PM

Screen Shot 2014-02-08 at 8.56.57 PM

USO reception - cake

USO Volunteers2

USO Volunteers1

USO Volunteers


the ceremonial plank

my favorite - 'Moose'



















Arrival staging

Arrival staging 1

Arrival staging 2

arrival of the plank

About USO Northwest
USO Northwest serves more than 500,000 active-duty military and their families annually throughout Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington State, and is an important part of the USO (United Service Organizations), a historic non-profit organization lifting the spirits of America’s troops and their families millions of times each year at hundreds of places worldwide.

USO Northwest provides a touch of home through its centers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, its USONW Mobile Canteen RV, and innovative programs and services. It also provides critical support to those who need it most, including military deploying overseas and arriving home, military families, wounded warriors and their families, and the families of the fallen.

USO Northwest is not a government agency, but a private, nonprofit organization relying on the generosity of volunteers and donors. USO Northwest also is supported through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC-15348). To join us in this patriotic mission, and to learn more about USO Northwest, please visit usonw.org.

About Enduring Support Campaign
The USO Northwest facilities must be remodeled and expanded to sustain the level of USO service and programs for years to come. The current USONW Sea-Tac Center is less than 3,500 square-feet and serves 10,000 military personnel a month. It has been in use for an extended period of time with little or no renovation or refurbishment. With an increased usage of 400 percent since 2005, it is critical the center be upgraded and maintained.

Through a partnership with the Port of Seattle, the Enduring Support Campaign will build out 7,000 square-feet of vacated space allowing for a larger USONW footprint to address increased service needs as well as greater visibility and access within Sea-Tac International Airport.

Enhancements in the areas of food services, sleeping accommodations, shower facilities and separate family relaxation areas are high priorities. For more information, visit www.usonw.org/campaign.


5 Responses to “Ceremony held for transfer of USS Colorado teak decking to USO Center”
  1. Vicki Lockwood says:

    What an inspiring story of the spirit of a warship that was built in 1922, decommissioned in 1947, sold for scrap in 1949, yet refused to fade into oblivion! Thanks to the Boeing Co. for buying the ship decking when the ship was being parted out so many years ago and thanks again to them for respecting the history of those historical planks. The two attending veterans who served on the USS Colorado during WWII who walked this decking daily while fighting for our continued freedom punctuated the importance of preserving this piece of history. I appreciated the sincere respect shown by everyone involved in this “custody transfer” of the blood and mortar-stained wood that will continue to remind us of the sacrifices previous generations have made as well as those our current military and their families continue to make for us every day. May this historical decking serve to keep the USONW grounded in its dedication and purpose. As a USONW volunteer, I will pause on occasion to notice the stains on the floor and remember what caused those blemishes. And in my moments of reflections I know I will feel the spirit of my own father who served on a different ship during WWII.

  2. Dorinda says:

    It’s too bad that the deputized rent-a-cops of the TSA had to get in on it. What they represent has NOTHING to do with our proud military. Sad.

  3. pam fernald says:

    When you actually look at the photos (above) of the USS Colorado showing activity on the deck, it just really brings the meaning of that planking to life. It is a different tangible representation of loved ones who gave their lives so we could be free. I was honored and humbled to be in the same space with Moose and Sparky…

    Just like Bill said: “I am in awe of the fact thousands of guests every year will be able to stand on the same decking used by WWII sailors fighting for our country on the high seas,” said SeaTac Center Manager Bill Baker.”

  4. Roger says:

    This is a big deal – sister ship to USS Missouri. The teak decking was used in part for its response to incoming fire. Cannot get material of this quality today – irreplaceable, not even considering its immense historical value. I was privileged to stand on the teak deck and historic spots on the Missouri before our friends in Olympia goofed yet again and let it get away from Bremerton. (Although, at least where she is anchored now, she is garnering the attention and visitors she deserves). This is a wonderful gift, worthy of all the attention! Hopefully, some of our educators in the Highline district will bring this to the attention of the students when they teach WWII history. Thanks!

  5. Jocelyn says:

    I saw this story on 60 Minutes (I think) this weekend. I was only half listening but when I heard the words “USS Colorado” I got goosebumps. I had to rewind the show and watch again and rewind again for my mom to watch. You see, my grandfather was killed on July 24, 1944 in Tinian on the USS Colorado. I have never heard it talked about on TV before and was stunned to hear this story. I’ve been to Colorado to see the memorial at the university and hope to some day get to the USO area at SeaTac to see the floorboards where my grandfather may have walked. My mom was 4 and my uncle was 1 when he died and it left a huge hole in their lives. Thank you for preserving this piece of history for all of us!
    Jocelyn Klotz
    Granddaughter of Ens. Robert Begg Holiday