I spent my childhood on the East Coast near many of the historical battlefields and settlements that shaped the early days of our nation. It was common for us to take field trips that let us see our history firsthand.
My wife was not so fortunate. While she received an excellent education, she grew up in a small town in rural Texas, far from any significant historical sites. I didn’t realize the significance of this until we took our kids on a tour of the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier that served during World War II.
We were touring the vessel, and for a while it had that distant feel to it that you experience sometimes when looking at a display about cavemen. Sure, it’s important, and interesting, and significant – but it had all happened so long ago. It’s hard to feel connected to the distant past when you’ve got a smartphone in your pocket.
Then we made our way below decks, and I could tell something changed.
We had walked into the room where the crew used to get their haircuts. There was a fun display with some mannequins in uniform, a mural painted by former crew members, and notes and pictures from the people who lived and worked in that part of the vessel.
That display had a lighthearted feel to it, but the connection it made with my wife was very deep, and it changed the rest of the tour for her. You see, Ashley is a cosmetologist and has worked for award-winning spas and salons. She takes pride in her work and views her profession as a calling. She hadn’t realized that an aircraft carrier had a salon on board – she had never had a reason for that to occur to her. Once she got to see it and experience it, her attitude about the Lexington changed.
She had felt a sense of reverence before, but now she felt camaraderie. “I could have served on this ship,” she said. “I could have done this.”
The tour became real for her at that point. The pictures of the crew were now pictures of people she might have served with. The stories of Kamikaze attacks told of events she could have lived through.
It didn’t just change the way she felt, it changed the way she talked to our kids. “Boys, look,” she said. “You could do this. Look at all the important jobs there are on a ship like this. You could serve your country and gain life skills at the same time!”
Did this tour change the course of my boys’ futures? They’re too young to tell, but it definitely changed our future vacation agendas. Wherever we go, you can bet we’ll be looking for historical attractions.
To learn more about the USS Lexington, visit usslexington.com.