Wednesday, October 19, was an exciting day for Submarine Veterans in North Carolina. For the first time ever, the USSVI was represented at the NC State Fair in Raleigh. Wednesday was Military Appreciation Day at the Fair – the weather was amazing and the crowds were impressive!
A separate area was established for veteran organizations around an outdoor stage near the center of the fairgrounds. Throughout the day various presentations and live music entertained a crowd and organizations were able to visit with individuals, share information and answer questions. Members from the North Carolina Tar Heel base and a representative from the Carolina Piedmont base manned a booth the entire day. The tent displayed a backdrop showing a collage of submarines and the table display had a variety of memorabilia and an impressive model collection of most classes of submarines (thank you to Robert Schilke from Carolina Piedmont).
The team met a variety of individuals. Some were just curious about the force, some had a family connection and some were submariners not familiar with the organization. One of the more notable interactions was with a nice gentleman who approached the tent and was asking if we knew where he could find a model of the Scorpion. After a brief discussion he shared that his father was a crewmember. He was a young boy and remembered attending the commissioning ceremony with is family. He revealed that his father transferred off just two weeks before the tragic accident. As you can imagine, he said, “my father has spent much of his life wondering why he was not on the sub that day.”
Late morning NC Governor Pat McCrory gave a very encouraging and appreciative speech at the stage. After what was thought to be a humorous comment about “we should get our picture taken with the governor” Mike Runkle pursued the departing dignitary. When Mike approached security outside the governor’s car and asked if the governor could take a picture with a “bunch of old sub guys”, the governor jumped out of his car and returned to the presentation area. He seemed as excited as we were and kindly shook hands and took pictures. The governor was presented a star from a flag that was flown in combat and he said he would be giving it to his cousin who is a Navy Seal.
The day was a great success. The local base received contact information from several submariners and handed out a handful of applications. Who knows, we may have even created some future submariners – the discussions with a lot of young, curious mind- this may lead to the next generation of SubVets.