Iraq ambush kills Centralian

Regina Clark, Centralia, left, posed for a picture during her 2003 deployment in Kuwait City. The man next to her was "her buddy," according to her then 18-year-old son, Kerry Clark, who chose this snapshot of his mother to lend to The Chronicle. The 43-year-old U.S. Naval Reserve member died in an ambush at Fallujah, Iraq.

With a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Washington State Transportation Commission paid tribute to Regina Clark, the Navy Seabee from Centralia who was killed in action in Iraq in 2005, naming the state Route 507 bridge over the Skookumchuck River near the Thurston-Lewis county line after the city’s fallen hero.

The decision formalized the Legislature’s creation of the Petty Officer 1st Class Regina R. Clark Memorial Bridge, an effort spearheaded by Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama.

Regina Clark Bridge

The Washington State Transportation Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to name the state Route 507 Skookumchuck River bridge near Schaefer Park after Petty Officer First Class Regina Clark, a Centralia resident who was killed in action in Iraq in 2005. A dedication ceremony will take place on Sept. 21.

“The fact that she was a single mom and she was so willing to go and defend the freedoms of the United States, that’s a special thing for anyone to do,” Orcutt said. “I will be very pleased to see that sign go up. I would like to be there for it. It’s important that we remember our military personnel.”

According to Lewis County Commissioner Edna Fund, a dedication ceremony will be held to celebrate the bridge’s new name on Sept. 21. The event, she said, is expected to be a major affair, drawing people from throughout the community. Fund attended the Transportation Committee’s vote, and said she was touched by the honor.

“It was very moving, and I thought — almost 14 years later and we’re getting this done,” she said. “That will be quite the event for our community to come to.”

Fund said much of the credit belonged to Joseph Amell, who led citizen efforts to push legislators to honor Clark.

Paul Parker, deputy director of the Transportation Commission, said the state is occasionally asked to rename infrastructure in honor of individuals or events, such as a decision in February to name a portion of state Route 530 for victims of the Oso landslide.

“The commission takes this very seriously,” he said. “It’s something that the commission appreciates the opportunity to do.”

The resolution officially renaming the bridge noted that Clark was a “single mother, avid softball player, and a loved and respected member of her Lewis County community.”

The bridge is located between milepost 4 and 5 on state Route 507, near Schaefer Park.

Clark was an employee of Fuller’s Shop’n Kart, and became the first area casualty of Operation Iraqi Freedom when she was killed by a roadside bomb. Her former colleagues remembered her in a 2010 Chronicle story as a loyal coworker who had a genuine interest in people’s lives.

“She was so soft-spoken, easy to get along with and just a genuine person,” said Doug Smith, who worked with her for five years. “It’s gonna be hard to forget her.”

Orcutt hopes the community remembers her too, as well as the sacrifices of every other man and woman in uniform.

“There is a big price that is paid for freedom, and it’s important that people are reminded of that on a fairly regular basis,” he said. “(Memorial Day and Veterans Day) are two days out of 365 days in a year. (The bridge) is a good daily reminder to people that freedom’s not free, that people actually go and put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedom.”

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