About 300 former crewmen of the USS Honolulu and their partners met Saturday night to dine and reminisce, and hear Sen. Jake Garn's plea for space funding, at the Marriott Hotel.

They came from all over the United States, and many also are members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, reunion organizer Ben Fishler said. They served on The Blue Goose between 1938 and 1946, mostly during World War II, in the Pacific Ocean."We all became very close," said Fishler, "like a family."

A very large family. The USS Honolulu was a 608-foot light cruiser and carried a crew of 1,200. Fishler estimates about 5,000 men served on the ship before it was decommissioned in 1946.

The ship was damaged in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and was torpedoed in the Kula Gulf of the South Pacific. That battle earned the ship and its crewmen a Presidential Unit Citation, Fishler said. The nickname "Blue Goose" came from the bright blue paint job the ship was given after Pearl Harbor.

Garn spoke of his experiences as an Air Force pilot and his "ultimate Walter Mitty dream," his space travel on a shuttle flight.

"It is virtually impossible for me to describe the beauty of Earth," he said, attempting to describe the view from 300 miles above the Earth. "You don't see any national boundaries, you see the Earth at a whole."

The senator made a plea for increased funding for the space program and commented on the successful Discovery flight last month.

"Never have I been so proud of my country."

The speech ended with Garn expressing gratitude to the former servicemen. "I would like to thank all of you for what you did on the USS Honolulu."

And on that note, the band struck up "New York, New York", and the veterans of World War II and "The Blue Goose" got up to dance.