COLUMBIA — Three crew members from the USS Columbia submarine were flown from the U.S. naval base Pearl Harbor to Columbia this weekend to honor their service and mark the 15th anniversary of Columbia as a submarine namesake city.
The submarine was named after the cities of Columbia in Illinois and South Carolina, as well, but the crew members are only visiting Missouri.
“It took us a nine-hour flight from Hawaii to Atlanta, and two separate one-hour flights to get to Columbia, so we’re all tired, but happy to finally be here, ” said Keith Richter, the sonar chief for the submarine.
Mayor Darwin Hindman welcomed Richter and the two other crew members, Jamie Steffensmeier and Jamison Zrust, to Columbia at a ceremony at Boone Tavern on Friday.
“We are proud of our relationship with the ship,” Hindman said.
Last month, a delegation from Columbia flew to Pearl Harbor, where the submarine is stationed, and went on a tour of the ship, experiencing what Hindman referred to as “angles and dangles” of the submarine moving through the water.
Vietnam veteran Rick Jackson, whose son, Richard Gold, is also serving on the USS Columbia, toured the submarine with the mayor last month and called it one of the best experiences of his life. Gold and Max Tubbesing are two Columbia residents serving aboard the ship.
Zrust, the junior sailor of the year, “is excited to be in Columbia and meet people,” but he’s happy to be here for another reason. Zrust’s parents came down from Mankatow, Minn., and Friday was the first time he has seen them since he was stationed on the submarine a year and a half ago.
The city has been active in its partnership with the submarine for the past 15 years, and “crew members have come to Columbia every year except one, when they were in active duty, since the ship was named in 1994,” said Renee Graham, a public communications officer who helped plan the event along with the Columbia Submarine Committee, the VFW and its Ladies Auxiliary, and the Navy.
Richter, Zrust and Steffensmeier plan to attend a banquet Saturday night, watch the air show and ride in the Memorial Day parade with the World War II Submarine Veterans.