JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Service members from across the Pacific Northwest participated in a military appreciation day celebration hosted by the Olympia Yacht Club and Thurston County Chamber of Commerce, Sept. 9.
The event called “Foofaraw” is held yearly on the first Friday after Labor Day. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the event, which grants participating service members a day of free entertainment, relaxation and community building.
“This is the first time since 2019 that we’ve been able to have this event,” said Gary Ashcraft, rear commodore for OYC and chair of Foofaraw. “This year we have over 500 service members and almost 40 yachts participating.”
Ashcraft, who is a retired Army specialist, knows all too well how important days like this are for service members.
“It is such a pleasure to see them (service members) smiling and having a good time,” Ashcraft said. “They get to forget about work and everyday stressors. They get to relax and in their line of work, that doesn’t come all the time.”
Some events that Service members got to participate in were:
- Potato races
- Corn hole
- Tug of war
Service members and guests were hailed by a line of first responders, police officers, fire fighters, harbor control and others who honked and waved as they departed from the OYC marina on yachts destined for a private island called Island Home.
One yacht in particular, the Explorer, was owned by Captain Bob Job, who’s been participating in Foofaraw for 24 years and looks forward to it every year.
“It’s something I started doing with my wife more than 20 years ago,” Job said. “After we lost her three years ago, I continued doing it because it was something we both loved. My family and I spent all week prepping the boat and painting to get it ready.”
Everyone who comes aboard the yacht signs Jobs’ logbook. The list of names goes all the way back to 1998. Jobs told the service members and guests a variety of stories and memories from his time with Foofaraw.
One of his fondest memories was randomly meeting a young Army sergeant at an airport in Germany. He struck up a conversation with him and found out not only was he was stationed at then Fort Lewis but had participated in Foofaraw a few years earlier.
“It really touched my heart that he remembered that event and what we were able to do for him,” Jobs said.
Jobs daughter and Vice First Mate Sue Dalebout, agrees with her dad that the best part of the event is meeting all the service members.
“Meeting the awesome service members and hearing their stories is very heart whelming,” Dalebout said. “This event brings everyone together and I wish everyone could just try it once to see how amazing it is. We’ve so many amazing people aboard and have made lifelong friends.”
The service members aboard the Explorer enjoyed the sunrise and camaraderie as they sailed for over an hour before being welcomed to Island Home by the sound of bagpipes, the sweet smell of fresh seafood and a dozen smiling faces.
“Who said superheroes aren’t real?” asked Judy Setina, commodore of the Olympia Yacht Club. “You are the people who protect our families. You are the superheroes. As a small token we want to share our island with you.”
The lunch host for the event was Lucky Eagle Casino. Rodney Youckton, chief community relations officer for the casino, blessed the food before everyone.
“Sometimes we take for granted the things we have,” Youckton said. “Today we all stand for one purpose, one mind and one heart. Today we honor all our troops and soldiers.”
There were several raffles and contests in which service members won various prizes donated by businesses within the surrounding community.
“This is my first year attending the event,” said Staff Sgt. Dakota Terrell, health care specialist with Madigan Army Medical Center. “It doesn’t feel like there’s different branches here, it feels like we’re all the same. We get to see a more personal side to each other.”
Some would say a more competitive side to each other as well. Different teams entered themselves in a variety of contests against one another.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Spc. Riley Bonefas, Stryker mechanic with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. “I had people from other branches and a few council members on my tug-of-war team that I’ve never met before, but you could just feel the competitiveness from everyone. I would tell anyone to sign-up for this event and not be intimidated about meeting new people.”
The festivities concluded as everyone sailed into the evening and back to the marina.
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