When one WWII veteran could no longer visit his local battleship to relish in stories of his days at sea, a special group brought the memories of his Navy days right to his doorstep.
Ernest Thompson, of Gardena, California, got the surprise of a lifetime when the Chief Selects of the Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center showed up on his neighborhood street to serenade him with “Anchors Aweigh.”
The unsuspecting Thompson, 98, stood on his front porch in salute.
“Neighbors came out of their houses to witness a once in a lifetime experience. My grandfather told me that it was one of the best days of his life!” Thompson’s grandson, Jonathan Williams, wrote in a Facebook post explaining the story behind the video, which has now gone viral with nearly five million views.
“My grandfather served on the USS Tennessee prior to WWII and the USS Missouri during WWII, ultimately witnessing the end of WWII,” the post explains. “He has become one of my best friends and is the reason that I became involved in saving the USS Iowa from scrap.
“When he lost my grandmother, the one thing he wanted to do was visit his ship (USS Missouri) again. We visited his ship together in 2000 and I was able to experience what these museum ships meant to veterans. I witnessed an 82 year old man become 18 again and a flood of emotions that affected all that were present tremendously.”
When Thompson was no longer able to visit the USS Iowa, one of the few naval vessels on the West Coast, due to health reasons, one of the volunteer coordinators from the ship, Sue Schmidt, organized the emotional surprise.
“I am humbled by the efforts these young men and women to do this for my grandfather,” Williams wrote.
Once the song was over, each member of the group personally shook Thompson’s hand to thank him for his service.