ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — Community members gathered on Monday to dedicate a long-awaited veterans memorial at Riverdale Regional Park in Adams County.
The memorial features a replica of part of the USS Colorado, a battleship that served in World War II.
The guests of honor included 96-year-old Ken Jones, who served on the USS Colorado during World War II.
Seeing the replica of the ship, with its bow jutting into Mann-Nyholt Lake, brought back memories for Jones, who lives in Texas.
“It brings back a lot of memories,” said Jones. “The memory it brings back mostly is living on that ship for that long, and then the close quarters with my shipmates. That ship was our home.”
The ship survived two enemy attacks. The first happened in July 1945 during the Battle of Tinian when Japanese shore batteries damaged the ship. More than 40 men died, and nearly 200 were injured in the attack.
The USS Colorado was damaged in another attack a few months later during the invasion of Leyte. Two kamikaze bombers attacked the ship, killing 19 and injuring over 70.
“They hit us 22 times, all on the starboard side, and I was on the starboard side. And we had a lot of men killed. I was up on my gun mount up above with no protection around me ever, and I didn't get a scratch,” said Jones.
Jones was also aboard the ship on September 2, 1945, when the USS Colorado docked in Tokyo Bay for Japan's surrender. He says the ceremony was broadcast on the ship’s speaker system.
“I remember that just as plain as yesterday,” said Jones. “It made me realize it's finally over. We won this war. I didn't get hurt, and I'm going home.”
The USS Colorado was decommissioned in 1947 after more than 20 years in service and sold for scrap in 1959.
Officials hope the replica will serve as a reminder of the crew’s sacrifices.
A history teacher for 30 years, Jones knows the importance of teaching younger generations about the past. He says it’s more urgent than ever with the country’s World War II veterans passing on.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, of the 16 million who served in World War II, only about 165,000 remain alive.
“Those of us that are still living and know the history of the USS Colorado have to pass it on to our children and then pass it on to their children,” said Jones.