Return to:

LOST AT SEA CEREMONY  held on Memorial Day

The Lost at Sea Ceremony, held on Memorial Day, 1500 hours, on the pier in the City of Cayucos is a memorable event, honoring all those who have been Lost at Sea, including all branches of the military, fishermen, and commercial aircraft downed at sea.  It also pays tribute to those who respond to them (Coast Guard, first responders, military, Lifeguards, Ocean Rescue Teams) and to our prisoners of war and troops missing in action.

This ceremony is the only one of its kind in California.  


The order of the ceremony is:

The ceremony begins promptly at 1500 hours with the ringing of a ships bell.
The crowd is greeted by the Master of Ceremonies Ron Janney and also Dan Costley

Welcome, Pledge of Allegiance etc.
Honored Guest(s) acknowledgement.
An invocation is given.
Tolling of the Bell
A POW/MIA ceremony is conducted.
Honor Guard is formed and leads the group walk to the end of the pier. Scottish Bag Piper, piping a tune, during the walk. A wreath is presented to all that wish to honor loved ones Lost at Sea, prior to the wreath being committed to the sea.
The Honor Guard and the USCG Boat with firing salute and water Cannons, honor those lost at sea, Taps is blown, the Benediction is said, and the Wreath committed to the sea.
A Missing Man formation is flown, by the Estrella War Birds, above the pier .
The Ceremony ends.





The POW/MIA ceremony is dedicated to the Prisoners of War and Missing in Action (POW/MIA).  This service is generally conducted by Captain Dick Hathcock, US Army (Former) assisted by a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer, Doug Morgan. The items used in the ceremony are placed on a table set for one.  The importance of this is to symbolize the frailty of one prisoner alone against his oppressors. 


Capt Hathcock at the 2017 event.





The items on the table are:


+ The white table cloth symbolizes the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.

+ The single red rose reminds us of the families and loved ones of our comrades-in-arms who keep the faith awaiting their return.

+The red ribbon tied to the vase is for the red ribbons worn upon the lapels and breasts of thousands who bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand a proper accounting of the missing.

+ The candle represents the upward reach of their unconquerable spirit.

+A slice of lemon is on the bread plate to remind us of their bitter fate.

+ The salt on the bread plate is symbolic of the families’ tears as they wait.

+The glass is inverted as they cannot toast with us this night.

+ The chair is empty.  They are not here.

The POW/MIA flag was born in 1971 to recognize POW-s and MIA-s from the Vietnam War.  The flag is black, and bears in the center a white disk with the silhouettebust of a man, a watch tower with a guard, and a strand of barbed wire.  Above the disk are the white letters POW and MIA framing a white 5-pointed star.  Below the disk is a wreath with the motto “You are not Forgotten”.  The flag has been altered to black and red, and to red, white, and blue.  The POW and MIA letters have been reversed.  On August 10, 1990, the 101st Congress passed US Public Law 101-355 which recognizes the flag that was created by the National League of Families of American POW-s and MIA-s in SE Asia.  Since then, the flag has come to recognize and honor POW-s and MIA-s from all of our country’s wars. 




MAY 29, 2017 CEREMONY:


The Lost at Sea Ceremony was held at the Cayucos Pier on Memorial Day, May 29 at 1500 hours.


Dan Costley getting ready for his opening remarks and recognition of guests. Dan gave a moving description of his personal experiences after his service in Vietnam.


John Lindsey and Jim Murphy in the background.

National Anthem played by Jerry Boots (on trumpet), Carlos Gama on trombone, and a great drummer Devotionals were presented by Rev. Dennis Falasco of the First Presbyterian Church in San Luis Obispo.
Lt Ron Janney, USN (fmr) was the master of ceremonies with his opening remarks and highlighs of the ceremony.

Ron introducing the Lost at Sea Committee Members:

Dan Costley, Donna Archer, Richard Hathcock, Rev. CDR Bill Houston, Gil Ingleheart, John Lindsey, Trudy O'Brien, Chuck Stoll, Robert Fuller Davis, and Rev. Dennis Falasco

Some of the appreciative crowd



Music provided by Jerry Boots, Carlos Gama including the Military Anthems (along with the National Anthem) Bagpipes by Paul Dunn (with drummer support): Skye Boat Song



Cuesta Choir with Cassandra Tarantino, Director

Eternal Father Strong to Save and Set Me as a Seal



March out on the Pier CDR Bill Houston, Lt Ron Janney, and MAJ Jim Murphy getting ready for the arrival of the Wreath
The Wreath is offered to all who knew someone that was lost at sea to touch it and offer a prayer Final blessings on the Wreath


CDR Houston committing the Wreath to the Sea Harbor Patrol honoring those lost


The Missing Man flyover by the select pilots of the Paso Robles Estrella Warbirds Museum:



An Aside from CMDR Bill:


A participant at a prior Lost At Sea memorial told CMDR Bill Houston a lady on the pier had lost her son at sea when he was cruising off the California cost. She became so distraught that she did not participate in much social activity or talk about the loss. The lady was escorted by a Sea Scout for the event. When the wreath was offered to her to touch before it was cast into the sea she said “It’s all right now.” and began to talk to people and recover from her distressed state.




The event is sponsored by many organizations:


Rotary Club of Cayucos-Seaside Funds musicians, obtains pier permit
Rotary Club of Morro Bay Sound system & logistics support
Cayucos Lions Club Funds missing man flyover, logistics support, & US Flag
Morro Bay Lions Club Funds brochures & logistics support
Morro Bay Commercial Fisherman's Organization Provides ceremonial wreath & logistics support
Kiwanis Clubs of SLO & Bay-Osos Foundation  
USCG Color Guard (& provided boat in the past)
MB Harbor Patrol, SLO Co Sheriff, Fish & Wildlife Provide Boats
Warbirds Museum Aircraft for flyovers
All Services Active duty personnel and veterans
MOWW Committee members & participants, website






In 2000, Joe Eyraud (Atascadero Joe) called Bill Benica at Bill’s radio talk show and planted the idea for a memorial ceremony for those lost at sea. Bill and Nancy Benica began a series of meetings with Joe, Dave Congalton, and Pastor Doug Carroll to plan for a Lost at Sea Ceremony. 

The first Lost at Sea Ceremony was held in 2002 on Memorial Day on the Cayucos Pier Plaza.  In addition to the above named planners, Tom Madsen and CDR Bill Houston, a retired Navy Chaplain, assisted with the ceremony.  Bill Benica, a Navy Vietnam War Veteran, served as Master of Ceremonies until 2009.  Since then, Tom Madsen has taken over as MC.  Soon after that first ceremony, Pastor Doug Carroll obtained a bell (possibly of World War II vintage) and the bell was used in the ceremony after the addition of a T-bar.  The bell has been used at the ceremony from that Memorial Day ceremony to the present day.   

In 2012, the Cayucos Lost at Sea Memorial Committee was formed as a permanent committee.  Members are: Bill Houston, Tom Madsen, Ron Janney, John Lindsey, and Jim Scott (all Navy veterans);  Trudy O’Brien, who carries the wreath as a representative of the the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization; Chuck Stoll, who represents the Cayucos Lions; Donna Archer and Dan Costley (Air Force veterans) who represent the Cayucos Rotary and Morro Bay Rotary respectively; and Dick Hathcock (Army veteran) who represents the Military Order of the World Wars.  

The committee has designed, procured, and installed a permanent memorial . The memorial is a granite obelisk, etched on opposing sides with the inscription “Dedicated to those Lost at Sea” beneath an etching of a bell enclosed by a laurel wreath.   Pastor Doug’s bell will not be permanently mounted on the obelisk, but will be placed in a support which is a replica of the foremast and mainmast of a sailing ship.  The bell in its support will be there for the Memorial Day ceremony. 









The granite memorial with the bell installed, Navy veteran John Lindsey awaits tolling of the bell











Committee Members include:

Bill Houston, Trudy O’Brien, Dan Costley, Ron Janney, Dick Hathcock, Donna Archer, Gil Igleheart, Robert Fuller Davis, John Lindsey, Chuck Stoll, and Rev. Dennis Falasco

Chairman – Ron Janney               
Secretary – Trudy O’Brien

Treasurer – Robert Fuller Davis