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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, August 2011, Page 56

Waging Peace

Poignant and Proud USS Liberty Memorial

altUSS Liberty survivors and friends, including Liberty and her father Frank Spicher, at far right. (Staff photo D. Hanley)

Every year on June 8, USS Liberty survivors and friends gather in Arlington Cemetery to remember the heroes who were killed on that day in 1967, those who have died in the intervening years, and the survivors who still await justice from the government they all served. The annual memorial service is sponsored by the White House Commission on Remembrance, which provides programs to remember Americans killed in service or by acts of terrorism.

Forty-four years after Israel's deadly and deliberate attack, many familiar faces attended, including Lt. Stephen Toth's sister Josie, and Patricia Blue-Rousakis, whose young husband, Allen Blue, an NSA civilian, was killed when the Israeli torpedo struck the Liberty.

Survivors solemnly read the names of the victims in a service that both comforts and inspires mourners. This year Liberty survivors, saddened by the recent death of John Hrankowsky, celebrated the college graduation, with a degree in physical therapy, of Liberty, the granddaughter of PO John Spicher, who was killed in the attack.

Liberty's proud dad, Frank Spicher, said he was thankful to meet up with survivors over the years, and that Hrankowsky had told him that Spicher's father, John, had played cards with him the night before the attack and said he couldn't wait to go home to play with his little boy. "I've met guys who have been able to give me part of my dad that I never would have had otherwise. Best of all, they all agree that he was a great guy. What more could I want?"

Many USS Liberty survivors were looking a lot like proud (but very young) grandpas this year.

Delinda C. Hanley