Bob Orleck and wife Barbara traveled from Vermont to visit the USS Orleck Naval Museum. The World War II-era destroyer is named after his uncle, Lt. Joseph Orleck, who died when a German aircraft sank his ship in 1943. (Jessica Guidry / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, April 24, 2014 10:23 AM
The USS Orleck may be aged, but its heart and the hearts of the men who served aboard it have stood the test of time, said the nephew of the ship’s namesake.
“She is an epic tale,” Bob Orleck said Wednesday. “It’s absolutely amazing that she is still here.”
Orleck and his wife, Barbara, traveled from Vermont to visit the USS Orleck Naval Museum. He met with the staff and watched members of the Iowa Volunteer Fire Department conduct an exercise aboard the ship.
The World War II-era destroyer is named after his uncle, Lt. Joseph Orleck, who died when a German aircraft sank his ship in 1943. Although he never met his uncle before he died, Orleck said he is proud the ship was named in his honor posthumously.
The ship was built in Orange, Texas, and served in the U.S. Navy from 1945 until 1982. It served in the Korean and Vietnam wars and assisted in the Gemini IV space capsule recovery.
“It’s more about the people than the ship,” Orleck said. “If there were no people who served on the ship, then this would just be a hunk of steel. Yet it is more than that. Those men were changed because of this ship.”
Since forming the USS Orleck Association in 1988, the organization has grown to include 2,000 members.
The association has hosted nearly 15 reunions over the last 26 years. He said the reunions have allowed him to meet the veterans, and those experiences have enhanced his perspective.
“They love this ship, and they wake up in the morning and think about it,” he said.
Orleck was instrumental in moving the ship from Turkey to Orange in 2000.
“Preservation is absolutely essential,” he said. “When you preserve the ship, you preserve the lives and the legacy of these men.”
He said he hopes Lake Charles residents embrace the ship and make it a priority for the ship to have a permanent mooring. While the ship needs funding, he said it really needs “people to believe in her and believe what she really stands for.”