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USS Turner Joy needs a few good volunteers

The USS Turner Joy, a staple in Kitsap County’s tourism diet, will be receiving some special attention this week.

Former crew members of the USS Richard S. Edwards, a sister ship of the Turner Joy’s, will board the ship Monday to accomplish a laundry list of tasks: installing a new ship’s antenna system from the mast to the below deck; cataloging the ship’s documents — blueprints drawings, equipment manuals, log books and operations forms — and putting them on a database; testing out shipboard communications systems; troubleshooting the E-Call system and repairing water-damaged topside electronics, said Tom Bernard of San Francisco, a former Richard S. Edwards crew member who will be volunteering.

The Turner Joy has applied for permission to salvage parts from the moth balled fleet in San Francisco, he said.

“Right now the parts list is for cosmetic purposes, to complete any missing parts,” Bernard said in an e-mail to the Patriot.

Sister ships are ships designed to be identical twins. For the crews who serve on the ships, however, each ship is distinct, Bernard said.

Both the Turner Joy and the Richard S. Edwards are Forrest Sherman Class Destroyers. The USS Turner Joy is the last in the line of the class.

While a work crew of about seven people is expected, anyone with experience in the Forrest Sherman Class Destroyers is welcome and encouraged to join.

Bernard said there are many reasons why former sailors think it is important to help out a ship in need, while just as many would just as soon forget their days in the Navy.

“As many as there are retired sailors, there are reasons why it is important to keep the connection or to forget,” he said. “Some of us want to try to retain our youth. When most of us were in the Navy, we were young, 20s to 30s, a good time to remember now that we are in our 50s and beyond.”

Bernard served on the Richard S. Edwards from 1966-69.

While volunteering on the Turner Joy will remind some of the former sailors of their Navy days, they also volunteer to make new friends and stay close to the old friends.

Some sailors, too, just want to give back to the Navy for helping them through the transition from high school graduate to responsible adult, he said. For this generation, however, another motivating factor moving them to volunteer is to help work through issues of a painful era in their lives.

“Some might be trying to resolve old issues, coming to terms with our nation’s perception of the Vietnam War,” he said. “Many came home from the service and felt disconnected from their peers/society as having failed them for being in the service.”

He is glad that the United States has learned a lesson from the Vietnam War.

“When you hear a news article about the current Iraq War, for example, you hear the people being interviewed say, whether their opinion is pro or con on the war, ‘We support our troops.’ This was a hard lesson to learn, our troops are not politicians, just everyday folks doing what they have to do.”

The most powerful motivator, however, is a simple one.

“There is the fun of working on a Navy ship, maybe your old ship,” Bernard said.

Jim Porter, the executive director of the Turner Joy, said volunteer efforts are vital to the ship’s operation. About 50 percent of the work done on the Turner Joy is volunteer.

Ed Armstrong, the northwest coordinator for the Richard S. Edwards, works to keep the former shipmates in contact with one another. He has been working to coordinate the effort for several months, although his health will prevent him from attending the event.

Armstrong served on the Richard S. Edwards from 1959-63 and said volunteers with various skills are required for a successful work party.

The Turner Joy is now a museum in downtown Bremerton and is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday-Sunday until May 1. After May 1, the ship will be open from 9 a.m. -5 p.m. every day.

For more information call Porter at (360) 377-4002.

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