CRESWELL, Ore. - Through the passage of time, the events surrounding the seizure of the USS Pueblo have largely been forgotten.
That's why Jurgen Ramil says remembering Duane Hodges of Creswell is so important.
"It's a piece of history that's completely forgotten," the U.S. Army veteran said Tuesday, the 50th anniversary of Hodges' death in an attack by North Korea on the Navy intelligence ship. "We need to remember this and we need to honor his service in giving the ultimate and teach our further generation."
On Jan. 23, 1968, North Korea seized the U.S. Navy intelligence ship USS Pueblo, commanded by Lloyd "Pete" Bucher, charging its crew with being on a spying mission; one sailor was killed and 82 were taken prisoner.
Cmdr. Bucher and his crew were released the following December after enduring 11 months of brutal captivity at the hands of the North Koreans.
Hodges, 21, was the only sailor aboard the Pueblo killed in action.
"When PUEBLO came under fire from these North Korean units, Petty Officer Hodges rendered invaluable assistance in the face of the intense hostile fire while participating in the unfamiliar task of destroying classified materials," according to USSPueblo.org. "Mortally wounded while carrying out this assignment, Petty Officer Hodges, by his courage, initiative, and inspiring dedication, he reflected credit upon himself and upheld and enhanced the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
People gathered in Creswell in the rain Tuesday on the 50th anniversary of Hodges' death to honor his service.
"Duane was a true hero," retired Air Force Col. Richard Heyman said, "and it is proper that we honor his memory on this day."
Norm Few officiated Hodges funeral in 1969. The retired pastor offered a prayer again Tuesday.
"Greater love has no person than this," he said, "that a man lays down his life for his friends."
Among those in attendance: Leroy Davis, a childhood friend of Hodges.
"We were just regular boys growing up in school," he said. "In our senior year he was quite a wrestler. He was easy going, polite, real polite and never got into trouble with anybody."
"I think about him all the time still," Davis added, "especially on the 23rd of January."
After the formal ceremony at the Creswell Library, three Navy reservists from Springfield traveled to the Hodges home south of town to replace the U.S. and POW flags there. The Hodges family no longer live there, but the family who lives there has agreed to maintain the flag pole in memory of Hodges.
KVAL News was there. Watch #LiveOnKVAL for more on the life and legacy of Petty Office Duane Hodges