The USS Kidd has been a fixture in Baton Rouge, Louisiana since 1982. Over that time, it has seen her ups and downs. Just like the brave men and women this memorial represents, it has always risen to meet challenges and surpass expectations.
It sits quietly. Almost stoic. Like it’s still on duty guarding the Baton Rouge shore of the Mississippi River.
I’ve overheard some people refer to the USS Kidd as “that boat on the river”.
George Seal, a volunteer at the USS Kidd, said, “It’s not just the boat on the river, this is a historical monument. Some of the questions we get, is this a real navy ship? Was this ship sank in world war eleven”?
Tim NesSmith, superintendent of the USS Kidd, said, “The Kidd is a fletcher class destroyer built in 1943 during the midst of World War II. She was one of 175 of her design and she’s only 1 of four left. Out of those four she is the only one that is still in her World War II configuration and she’s the closest ship of a destroyer design that you will find anywhere in the world”.
And it’s sitting right in our back yard. Over a year ago, we came close to losing it.
With increasing budget problems, the USS Kidd Veteran’s Museum almost had to close the doors. With the introduction of a new executive director and a specific plan and focus, the museum looks like smooth sailing.
Alejandra “Alex” Juan, the Executive Director of the USS Kidd Veteran’s Museum, said, “This last year we really sort of hunkered down and reduced spending incredibly. We’ve gotten really creative with our programing and introduced 24 new programs. Despite all of that we managed to end the year in the black”.
She credits the success of the museum to the volunteers who run it.
She said, “It’s a one team one fight and we’re all in it together. We all did this to get to this point. They’ve been invaluable to everything that we’ve done”.
The most important people aren’t the current staff. NesSmith said, “If you think about the ship it’s just a cold piece of metal. Even as much effort as we put to make her just like she was in 1945, it’s just a static display. When you get the guys, especially the guys that served on here, they are telling you what this did and what that did. The ship becomes alive”.
When you talk to these veterans, you can easily see it’s more than a ship to them.William Barnhouse served on the USS Kidd in World War II.
He said, “We were just boys then. When we were aboard that ship, we were able to defeat the strongest enemy the world has ever known. She took care of us and got us home. We feel a real debt of gratitude to her a feel like she is just kind of a mother to us”.
Some people make coming to the Kidd as a pilgrimage to feel closer to those they’ve lost. Nancy Miller Grinage visited the USS Kidd all the way from Indiana. Her Father served on the USS Kidd in World War II.
She said, “Part of his life and history were on this boat. When I walked on board I knew I was there somewhere in his footsteps. It’s an incredible feeling. I know he’s proud that I’m here”.
It’s been called a number of different things: A monument, a historical artifact, a time capsule, a place of heroes, dad’s ship, mother.
The one thing that the USS Kidd is diffidently not, is just a boat on the river.
It has something to do with the history behind the structure, the history of the name, but more importantly it has much to do with the brave souls who served on her.
Defending Freedom wherever she sailed.
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