Thank you, USS Yorktown Veteran
I am spending my 3 day weekend enjoying what SC has to offer. I started the weekend in Charleston, SC with my younger sister, who is on a 4 day weekend pass. The second half of the weekend is to be spent with friends in Myrtle Beach (aka, my second home)
On my way up Highway 17 North, towards Myrtle (a route I’d never driven before) I stopped at Patriot’s Point (the USS Yorktown and Museum) with a mission- find a model Osprey for my husband’s display case at work. Having not been to Patriot’s Point in several years, I got somewhat lost in the maze of traffic circles, signs and hotels (many of which were not there several years ago). I somehow found myself in the employees’ parking area and knew I needed to turn around. I rolled down my window to enjoy the warm, Charleston air and was met with an unpleasant sound. The loud sound of propellers from what sounded like several helicopters was very close. A bit surprised, I parked the car (in the employee area– sorry!) and began to look around. Their was a static Marine helo in front of me, very much grounded and unoccupied.
I glanced across the parking lot, about 30 yards from me and saw several more helicopters, a tank or two and a guard tower, all surrounded by barbed wire. I realized the noise was coming from there, so I drove closer. Ignoring the large “No Trespassing” signs (sorry again) I pulled into a gravel parking lot adjacent to this blocked off area and climbed out of the car.
The noise grew louder, with some unintelligible radio chatter added in for effect. My head began to pound (I do not do well in war simulators- the noise bothers me more than anything). I noticed a sign “US Naval Support Base. Somewhere, South Vietnam”. I knew instantly that this had be the “Vietnam Experience” that is a rather new attraction at Patriot’s Point.
Let me stop here to say that I can only imagine what a Vietnam Vet feels/thinks when he sees “Vietnam Experience” as a tourist attraction. I have nothing to compare it to, having never been in combat, but I have a feeling they find it nightmarish and unimaginable why anyone would pay money to simulate it.
Having not purchased a ticket, I began to walk away from what I can assume was the back side/employees’ area of the attraction. There was a lump in my throat just looking at the makeshift base and its simulations from outside the fence. Last night’s rain had main the grass slick and the ground muddy, so I was carefully making my way back to my car, when a man came seemingly out of nowhere.
“Can I help you?” He asked, in a friendly tone. He was wearing a USS Yorktown Veteran hat and some sort of badge. I wondered if I was in trouble. I started to stammer a response about looking for visitor parking, when the overwhelming need to talk to my dad surfaced. I just sort of gestured to my car and the tears began to flow.
This poor, poor man. I don’t know when he served on the Yorktown, but he has probably seen some bad things. He didn’t know how to handle crying, sputtering me. He just smiled and said “you can go in if you like”. I was able to shake my head and say “no thank you”. He turned to leave and said “take all the time you need”.
I took a few pics and walked back to my car. I located the visitors parking, parked and called my dad. I had calmed down by then. I just told Dad good morning, and that I missed him. I didn’t offer any explanations and he didn’t ask any questions. I think he just knew.