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Marble Falls VFW on a mission for USS Tarawa shipmates

USS Tarawa

The USS Tarawa in the Persian Gulf in October 2000, when the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen. The LHA-1 Navy amphibious assault ship was the lead in Operation Determined Response, which provided security for the port and took in shipmates from the Cole and helped get them home. Photo by PH1 David Miller, courtesy of the U.S. Navy

A plate of barbecue at Marble Falls VFW Post 10376 can help about 58 shipmates from the USS Tarawa attend a reunion in Las Vegas with their families.

Marble Falls VFW post member Donald Jackson, who was on the Tarawa as a U.S. Navy machinist mate third class, is organizing and raising money for the 2024 reunion through donations, sponsorships, and a $10-a-plate barbecue at noon Aug. 19 at the post, 1001 Veterans Ave. 

“It’s almost like a high school reunion,” Jackson said. “We are like brothers in arms. We were all going through the same thing. We were young, ripped away from Mom and Dad. We developed a brotherhood and sisterhood.” 

The Navy amphibious assault ship was in the Persian Gulf in October 2000 when the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen. The Tarawa and its crew became part of Operation Determined Response.

“We took the (Cole) shipmates that were on board and brought them on board with us,” Jackson said. “We were there for support for the Cole. We got them back home.”

The Aug. 19 event will feature brisket plates with homemade potato salad and baked beans as well as a silent auction. All proceeds will go toward the reunion.

“Some of my out-of-state shipmates are doing different fundraisers,” Jackson said. “One is designing T-shirts to sell. One shipmate lives in Vegas and set us up with a hotel at half the cost.”

Donations are being accepted through a page.

“This reunion means everything to all of us,” Jackson said on the webpage. “I am trying to get my Navy family together. Many things have happened within the past 25 years and this would be the first time that we will be able to reunite and reflect on the past. Any donation big or small will help unite the Operation Determined Response Team.”

Learn more about the shipmates and their planned 2024 reunion over a plate of brisket on Aug. 19. Jackson said he will sell food that day until it’s all gone.