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97-Year-Old Navy Veteran Visits USS Midway For First Time In More Than 70 Years

Video by Roland Lizarondo

Thousands of people visit the USS Midway Museum every year, but Wednesday the ship had a very special visitor—one of the first sailors on board back in 1945.

Ed Stankowski joined the U.S. Navy in 1942 and served during World War II. Before his tour ended he was part of the first crew aboard USS Midway.

"When I got assigned to it in February it was under construction and I didn’t get to see too much of it," Stankowski said. "I was driving my captain around."

Stankowski said once the ship was finished he was part of its maiden voyage.

"We took a shakedown cruise to the Caribbean and Cuba and stuff then we came back and put it in dry dock because there were some bugs they had to remedy," he said.

Stankowski had an important job while on the Midway.

"I was receiving and sending messages in international Morse Code," he said.

Stankowski remembers the food served on the ship was pretty good.

"That was the best food I had in the Navy," he said.

RELATED: USS Midway Museum Teaches Lessons Of Vietnam War

The Midway was in service until the early 1990s and Stankowski said a lot has changed since he was there.

"First thing I noticed was the change of the planes," he said. "It’s interesting things have changed quite a bit. Even the flight deck is different."

Stankowski lives in Wisconsin and he did not make this trip alone. Some of his kids, grandchildren and a great-grandson were with him.

"We just lost our mother in January and I thought this would be a way to sweeten things up a little bit," Stankowski's son, Ken, said. "I said we’ll take you to San Diego—that was 4 o'clock in the afternoon. He says, 'No I’m not going.' Well 7 o'clock the next morning he’s calling me, 'When are we leaving?'"

Now 97 years old, this was Stankowski’s first time seeing the ship since leaving the Navy in 1946. His family said seeing the ship is a memory they will never forget.

"A little bit heart wrenching," Ken Stankowski said. "I think Pa even had a tear in his eye and he’s a tough nut—not often you see that."

Although he was reluctant at first, Stankowski said the trip to San Diego was worth it.

"I enjoyed seeing all this," he said. "But I didn’t expect all this publicity."

Ed Stankowski joined the U.S. Navy in 1942 and was part of the first crew aboard USS Midway in 1945—he and his family got to tour the now floating museum.

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