JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The USS Orleck, a retired Navy warship, is just days away from its grand opening to the public.
On Wednesday, September 28, community members will have the opportunity to experience the ship’s rich history up close in Downtown Jacksonville.
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The ship will be the centerpiece of the Jacksonville Naval Museum.
It will be free to get inside, but donations are appreciated.
Read: ‘What’s your next?’: Jacksonville teenagers build skills, self-awareness aboard USS Orleck
“When I bring people on, I tell them you’re about to walk into history,” said Daniel Bean, the president of Jacksonville Naval Museum.
Museum leaders said this would not be possible without the support of VyStar Credit Union and the City of Jacksonville.
Action News Jax has been tracking the progress for nearly six months.
Read: USS Orleck inside look: How you can show support for Jax museum during renovation process
In March, Action News Jax Reporter Kennedy Dendy took a tugboat to meet the ship and climbed aboard before it came down the St. Johns River Channel.
You can find the Orleck docked along the Northbank Riverwalk until the museum’s new home is ready at Shipyards West in Jacksonville.
“I hope you can appreciate the sacrifices that the folks who have served on this warship made for us,” Bean said.
Read: USS Orleck docks in Downtown Jacksonville
Action News Jax also spoke with Robert Orleck. He is the nephew of Joseph Orleck who the ship was named after.
“I was two years old when he went off to war and died,” Orleck said. “The ship went down. so I didn’t know him but I learned a lot about him.”
Here’s how he described the approaching of the ship’s opening to the public.
Read: Jacksonville Naval Museum officially takes ownership of USS Orleck
“Unbelief. There are miracles,” Orleck said.
The USS Orleck fired 11,000 shots in the Vietnam War, and it’s the most decorated warship in American history since WWII.
“We’ve worked hard for 12 years to make this a reality,” Bean said.
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He said the ship will not be a static display.
“We could make it an Airbnb, have laser tag, and modernize it as best we can – with having the right amount of respect for the past,” Bean said.
To date, the project has cost more than $3 million.
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VyStar Credit Union members will get exclusive early access on Sunday, Sept. 25, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. by showing their VyStar credit or debit card.
Starting Wednesday, Sept. 28, the USS Orleck will be open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays.
Volunteers are still needed, even after the ship opens to the public next week.
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