Piece by piece, volunteers have been hard at work — gearing up to transform the USS Orleck into the centerpiece of the Jacksonville Naval Museum.
Action News Jax was on the USS Orleck when it sailed down the St. Johns River and docked along the Northbank Riverwalk in March.
Justin Weakland is the Vice President of Jacksonville Naval Museum.
“We have teams of volunteers on here, probably 10 to 20 at a time,” Weakland said. “They’re actually going through the ship cleaning it, sweeping it and then they’re taping up everything and getting it ready to paint out the entire inside. So, it’s a ton of work.”
Weakland said active-duty sailors and veterans are on board each day doing refurbishment work.
“Bringing a museum ship here is a huge project,” Weakland said. “Our insurance is $40,000 a year alone, right? The paint is $50,000 for the paint. We need big community support from volunteers, and then we’re getting corporate sponsorship too for the ship.”
On Friday Action News Jax reporter Kennedy Dendy received an inside look at the work underway.
The USS Orleck, one of the most decorated ships in U.S Navy history fired more than 11,000 shots during the Vietnam War.
Jacksonville Naval Museum leaders envision a space where veterans and history-buffs can gather — field trips, reunions and so much more.
“Just imagine a bride and groom getting married on top of the pilothouse and then they can have the reception on the flight deck,” Weakland said. “So how great is that? It’s just a beautiful thing.”
Steven Taylor has been in the Navy for 14 years and is a First Class Petty Officer (IT1.)
Action News Jax watched as Taylor was re-enlisted on Friday for the last time — a ceremony held on the USS Orleck.
He reenlisted for six more years and shared why he’s grateful to have the ship here in Jacksonville.
“It’s a beautiful ship,” Taylor said. “I’m a history buff, so it’s great to see that we have one finally. We’ve been working on this for years.”
Taylor was born in Jacksonville.
“This one is special because my dad was stationed in Mayport in the ‘70s on a sister ship of this — the USS Meredith,” Taylor said.
The goal remains for the museum to open in mid-June, but they still need major support from volunteers and the community.
This is in addition to the financial help they’ve received from VyStar, the City of Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Navy League, and local rotaries.
“This could be a vision of something more, and we can display more of our local naval history and heritage here,” Weakland said. “We have memberships now. Memberships are available online.”
The USS Orleck is temporarily along the Northbank Riverwalk, but the permanent home for the museum will be off the Shipyards.
Leaders say that your donation will support establishing the USS ORLECK DD-886 as the centerpiece of the Jacksonville Naval Museum.
CLICK HERE to donate.
Jacksonville is the third largest Navy city in the nation and the largest Navy city in Florida.
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