Korean War veteran Gerald Bowman gamely walked up the gangplank to board the ship he had not seen in almost six decades. The 82-year-old is suffering from congestive heart failure with only about a year to live and his dying wish was to walk the decks of the USS Laffey on which he served four years, including three tours off Korea.
Wearing a USS Laffey hat, he led reporters through the ship at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum on Charleston Harbor Friday, stopping by his old bunk and then into the engine room where as a machinist mate he worked, sometimes in sweltering temperatures of more than 120 degrees.
He choked up and paused when asked how it felt to be back.
“I just wanted to come back and see actually what happened to me in my early 20s,” the Elkins, Ark., man said. “I think the bottom line was the four years changed me. I was a different person when I left.”