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Two in Tow & On the Go | A girl, a military base, and The 14 Names To Remember Project

Posted on May 10th, 2024 By:

Dear readers,

We interrupt your regularly scheduled family column to bring you this long-ish story about a girl, a military base, and how they all tie into a cool Memorial-Day themed news event that you’re all invited to attend next week.

A girl

A girl. Circa 2008.

Once upon a time, there was a twenty-something California girl who didn’t have kids. Without the responsibility of maintaining the health and happiness of any tiny humans whatsoever, she was free to sleep in, pursue hobbies and even pee in silence.

This relaxed and careful gal with zero wrinkles and a shiny two-door hatchback free of crushed crackers in its seats, was also a journalism major. She landed a newspaper job while still in college. She did a little of everything in the beginning — wrote obituaries, tracked gas prices and even compiled calendar listings.

After a while, the girl moved up and wrote little features on the funny first jobs local business executives had as teenagers. Her bosses really liked all her work, so before she knew it, city government reporter appeared below her byline. She covered two cities, five community service districts, several downtown commercial areas, and one state psychiatric hospital. Then they threw in a water park for good measure.

She loved it all. She loved unearthing stories no one else had written. She loved giving people a voice to share their lives in ways they couldn’t do alone. She loved telling people things they didn’t know, things they found useful and things that inspired them.

A military base

Story reproduction of a 2015 Camp Roberts news article by Tonya Strickland originally featured on

But most of all, this girl loved solving the mysteries of the hundred-piece puzzle day after day until her final drafts were filed. It was even OK that, a decade after she started, she was covering a beat that six other reporters before her once all handled separately. Among the girl’s new and unexpected coverage areas — a military beat emerged.

And with it, came Camp Roberts from the parched and sleepy mission community of San Miguel, California. The former Army base, now held by the California National Guard, once saw 50,000 soldiers training there for World War II and beyond. But that second world war, in particular, and the veterans she interviewed for it, became the source of at least a dozen of the girl’s most treasured articles she’d write in her career.

WWII stories

Before we move on, I’ve spent the last 398 words writing in the third person about this unnamed mystery maiden. So it’s safe to say that I can now tell you that girl was … me. I know. You are SO surprised!

Story reproduction of a 2012 Camp Roberts news article by Tonya Strickland originally featured on

I’d love to say that I was the all-American girl-next-door type with longtime aspirations about covering our country’s military. But the truth is, that topic wasn’t really ever something I’d thought about before. After I got Camp Roberts, though, I quickly learned that WWII stories covered many of the same topics I already wrote about in the modern day. Except, the sources were bad-a** old guys who got all cute and nostalgic when they shared with me (and my notebook) some of the most pivotal moments of their lives. Some of whom had never talked about those war memories before I got to them. (But I was nice. I swear). The facts were complex, political and deeply personal. And, if a veteran died in service, so much of their story went untold.

Gig Harbor’s WWII Veterans Monument

Photo by Tonya Strickland. 2024.

Such was the case with the 14 names inscribed on Gig Harbor’s WWII Veterans Monument. I first saw the decades-old stone statue at a playground I take my kids to at 3580 50th Street Court. We call it the “blue and green park,” but its official name is the Kenneth Leo Marvin Veterans Memorial Park. I wanted to write about the park’s cool disc swing — but when I walked by the monument, standing 6 feet tall in solid Washington granite, I couldn’t help but wonder about the names embossed in copper on its base. And that’s how the first set of bios came to be. I’d spent 12 hours over four or five days looking up the lives of the men behind the names. I hit up public record databases online and searched through my beloved archive for mentions of the guys in local articles in the 1930s and 40s. Originally, I’d set out to get basic information on the veterans so their names, military rank and accomplishments could circulate into the modern-day public record online for the newer generations.

The result was 14 brief biographies on each veteran, mostly identifying which branches of the military the guys served, when they died, and maybe even how they died. That first article ran on May 30, 2023. Within days, I received a lot of nice feedback from it! Even some descendants contacted me — which was so cool.

Still at it

Compilation of records from, the National Archives, and Google Maps. Collage by Tonya Strickland.

So … case closed, right? While I could’ve easily dusted my hands of the task, some things still bugged me. In the first round of stories, I couldn’t find as much information on some of the guys as I could with others. Which, of course, drove me bonkers. And then one guy, I come to find out, went and changed his name as a teenager and had a whole other record that took me months to figure out. Military records are tough like that. First, some branch records are more forthcoming than others. Second, not all records are online — many are still boxed up at repositories across the country waiting to be digitally transcribed. Third, there’s also about, say, a bajillion, errors all over the internet in the spelling, dates and key facts about a person. Which, let me tell you, can make tracking someone’s actions 80 years ago, in a foreign country, on a road that doesn’t exist anymore, a fairly difficult endeavor. All that to say — spoiler! — I’m still at it. Over the last 11 and a half months, I’ve slowly been unraveling and churning out expanded story editions behind all 14 names.

The 14 Names To Remember Project

Inspired by the headline my cool editors gave the story last year, I’m calling our newest round of bios, “The 14 Names to Remember Project.” And it’s defying all the rules. Gig Harbor Now and I have elevated these names and stories beyond the digital realm, giving them new life as a historical exhibit for display at various locations in town. The first stop will be at the Gig Harbor Civic Center, 3510 Grandview St., from May 16 through the end of June.

You’re invited!

We hope you come see these large-scale prints on the interior hallway walls at city hall, just across from the city council chambers. For reference, I hung a student art show in the same location last December. And, I also drew the little map below. Stop by opening night on Thursday, May 16, for our walk-in reception that’s free and open to the public. The casual event is planned from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and will have Gig Harbor Now volunteers and staff on hand to chat about our work to bring community news to Gig Harbor. And to honor the memory of 14 veterans I think you’ll learn a lot more about! After all, I know a girl.

City Hall interior map showing the exhibit hallway location across from council chambers. Google Maps base layer. Art by Tonya Strickland.


Tonya Strickland is a Gig Harbor mom-of-two and longtime journalist. Now in the travel and family niche, her blog, Two in Tow & On the Go, was recently named among the 10 Seattle-Area Instagram Accounts to Follow by ParentMap magazine. Tonya and her husband Bowen moved to Gig Harbor from California with their two kids, Clara (9) and Wyatt (7) in 2021. Find them on Facebook for all the kid-friendly places in and around town.