April 10 — To the Editor:
As I approached the Kittery traffic circle the other day, the first thing that caught my eye was the large American flag snapping smartly in a stiff breeze. The flag was illuminated by the morning sun from behind and it gave the flag an ethereal and translucent appearance. “Beautiful,” I thought.
Upon reaching the traffic circle, I was immediately struck by the solemn yet graceful granite markers engraved in large dark letters that read “USS Thresher.” Respectful and stark at the same moment, it caused me to take a deep breath.
After exiting the traffic circle, I looked over my shoulder toward Kittery Town Hall and saw the beautiful stonework with a replica of the USS Thresher on it at the Memorial Park. I thought to myself, “Wow, they actually pulled it off, our very own memorial.”
After the loss of the Thresher, my family stayed in the Seacoast and that is where I grew up. Every year, April 10 is a day of somber remembrance for those who were lost aboard USS Thresher. This date has a particular impact on the families who lost a loved one, for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard workers and for the U.S. Navy submarine veterans.
As a young boy, then a teenager, eventually a young man, and now as an adult, there was never a monument where we could go to on April 10 to place flowers and acknowledge their sacrifice. Now we have such a place.
I would like to thank the members of the USS Thresher Memorial Committee for their dogged determination, skilled diplomacy and resiliency in the face of adversity. Your steadfastness brought this respectful and fitting tribute to life and is a great honor to those who were lost aboard USS Thresher. I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to all those who donated their time or their money to bring this to fruition. It was through private fund-raising that the monies were derived for this memorial site.
How fitting that this memorial is in Kittery. For it was in Kittery that the plans for Thresher were first laid down. It was in Kittery the Thresher was built. It was in Kittery that she was launched and commissioned and, finally, it was from the dockside in Kittery that the USS Thresher cast off her mooring lines for the last time and headed to sea on what would be her final journey.
On behalf of the family members of the USS Thresher, I say a heartfelt thank you to the citizens of Kittery for allowing this memorial tribute to grace your town.
Editor’s note: The writer is the son of United States Navy Chief Petty officer Walter “Jack” Noonis, who died while serving on USS Thresher on April 10, 1963.