Seaman First Class Ken Jones was just 19 years old when he served on the USS Colorado during World War II. He was a loader at one of the battle stations in the quarter deck on the starboard side of the ship.
During the Battle of Tinian, in what are now known as the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean, the USS Colorado is credited for shooting down 11 aircrafts. The battleship was also hit nearly two dozen times near where Jones was stationed.
“We've had something like 98 killed.” Jones said. “I was on that side of the ship and I didn't get a scratch. So somebody [was] looking out for me.”
The war is long over. The USS Colorado no longer exists. But Jones’ experience, as well as countless others’ who have served in American armed forces, are being memorialized in Adams County’s Riverdale Regional Park.
Over the weekend, the county unveiled its new veteran memorial in the park, complete with a replica of the USS Colorado jutting into Mann-Nyholt Lake.
Now 96 years old, Jones, his wife and family traveled from their home in Arlington, Texas to see the memorial. Though he doesn’t remember the original ship well enough to note the similarities with the replica, Jones said he was honored to see it.
“It's like coming home again, because when we served on the Colorado, that ship became our home and that was our place of safety,” Jones said.
The original battleship was used between August 1923 to January 1947, mostly in the Pacific Theater. It was the first of its battleship class, the Colorado Class, to be commissioned. Three other ships were part of the Colorado Class: the USS Maryland, USS Washington and the USS West Virginia. After the USS Colorado was decommissioned, it was sold for scrap in July 1959.
For the memorial, which was seven years in the making, the Adams County Veterans Advisory Committee chose to feature the USS Colorado for its connection to the state.
“The Navy has a tradition of naming ships after states, and a lot of the other branches don't have that tradition,” said Charles “Chaz” Tedesco, Adams County Commissioner and Navy veteran. “And we wanted something that tied to our community and tied to our state … We want people to have this as a destination.”
There are plexiglass decals honoring each branch of the armed services at the memorial. Eventually, flags for each branch will be flown. A prayer wheel was installed to pay homage to the area’s Native American roots. The memorial overlooks the lake and has great views of the park and the Front Range.
Tedesco said visitors will also be able to fish off the memorial’s bow.
“This is really meant to be an active memorial,” Tedesco said. “We do stock these lakes and we want it to be an active area. That's where we try to incorporate this so that people could come out and interact with the memorial and not just look at them all.”
The Adams County Veterans’ Memorial will officially open the Memorial Day with a formal ceremony at 9:30 a.m.
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