Navy veterans who served on the USS Orleck gathered in Jacksonville for a reunion of the ship they called home during their service.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Grey Ghost of the Vietnam Coast calls downtown Jacksonville its home, but many navy veterans called the USS Orleck home during their time in the service.
The USS Orleck was awarded 18 Battle Stars and is one of the most decorated ships in the history of the US Navy. On Veterans Day weekend in Jacksonville nearly 170 former sailors gathered for a reunion and the stories started flowing even before the veterans stepped aboard their ship.
“Did you ever ride a typhoon in that?” asked Paul Romilly.
“You bet, two of them,” replied Rick Butler. “It’s like being on a roller coaster for 5 days.”
More than 50 years after serving on the Orleck, Butler walked back on his ship. More than 100 veterans who called the Orleck home joined him aboard.
“I want to show you where I slept,” said Butler as he walked through the ship. “Right down here was the M division and boiler techs, we were called snipes.”
Veterans who served at different times on the Orleck reminisce about similar experiences.
“The first time they fired this gun the whole door blew right off,” said Romilly.
“This is where the fly deck is and this is where the helicopters used to land and bring supplies,” said Butler as he climbed a set of stairs on the ship.
New friends are made as the veterans who walk around the Orleck meet other veterans who patrolled the same areas more than half a century ago.
“It’s great, it’s like bringing back all types of memories, like coming home,” said one veteran that Butler met along the way, “we spent a lot of our young years here, we grew up here.”
Touring the ship brought back memories as vivid as living them in the 1960s.
“And when the guys would be in storms this is what they held on to,” said Butler as he grabbed a metal bar on the bridge of the ship.
Butler was joined on the tour by fellow veteran Danny Sieving, whose brother served with Butler on the Orleck. Memories of old friends, shared with new friends.
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