PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — The USS Missouri Memorial Association presented representatives from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a plaque made from a piece of the Mighty Mo’s original teak-wood deck in honor of the approximately 27,000 hours of volunteer service that Mormon missionaries and local members have donated to the famous battleship over the past 15 years.
Elder Daniel L. Johnson of the Seventy and Hawaii Honolulu Mission President Stephen R. Warner accepted the plaque during a special program aboard the ship on Dec. 5. Approximately 50 missionaries — some who had helped paint, sand, polish, clean and carry out other assignments aboard — also attended the presentation ceremony.
Association President and CEO Michael A. Carr said their generous help was “equal on our books to almost half a million dollars' worth of in-kind services. That’s incredibly valuable. The ship would not look like it does and be where it is today without volunteer help in general and, specifically, the work of the LDS volunteers has been very instrumental to what the ship looks like today.”
Carr outlined the history of the ship, noting it was built in the Brooklyn, New York, Naval shipyard between 1941-44 and arrived in the Pacific to take part in bombing raids over Tokyo, the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and the on-board signing of the armistice ending World War II.
“The greatest conflict in the history of mankind ended on the decks of the USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945,” Carr said. He pointed out the battleship also served in the Korean war, was then decommissioned and berthed for 30 years in Bremerton, Washington, then recommissioned and modernized in 1986 to play a “central part in the First Gulf War."
The Navy donated the famous battleship to the nonprofit association in June 1998, and after 50,000 man-hours of volunteer efforts, opened it as a visitor attraction at Pearl Harbor on Jan. 22, 1999. “Over 6 million people have visited the ship since then,” Carr said.
Responding to the presentation, Elder Johnson told the young missionaries, “You cannot serve without loving. You can even love a battleship. As you serve here, you come to love it. As you serve one another, you come to love the people you serve. That’s why service is so important: not because of what we do for others, but for what it does to us.
“I hope as you serve on this ship, as you donate hours, that it will create something inside of you that will also help you value the freedom that this ship and others have helped to bring to us; and that you will serve others for the rest of your lives. Learn how to love and appreciate, because that’s what service is all about.”
Elder Johnson thanked the USS Missouri Memorial Association for giving the missionaries the opportunity to “learn a great lesson in life."
Warner — the son of a World War II Navy pilot who flew off aircraft carriers — also noted, “I love having an opportunity for our missionaries to come on board this ship, which stands for liberty and freedom, that has fought around the globe to preserve freedom.”
“I’ve never seen anything quite like this opportunity to work aboard a former fighting ship, and to work shoulder-to-shoulder with other volunteers who come together from the community who all know what this ship represents. This needs to be preserved so that younger generations who don’t know war can understand the price of war,” Warner said. “Sometimes that requires the ultimate sacrifice.”
Elder Lloyd Austin, who is serving a senior military relations mission in Hawaii with his wife, Sister Virginia Austin, and helped organize the presentation program, said, “Volunteering here is just a part of the opportunities the young missionaries have to give service during their missions. A lot of people come aboard, see them wearing their missionary badges and ask what they’re doing, so it’s also another way to expose people to their missionary efforts. We’re happy the USS Missouri Memorial Association made the presentation to the missionaries and church members here on the island for all their hours of service over the last 15 years.”
Following the ceremony, Howard Wailana Kamau’u, a retired Army officer who now serves as president of the nearby Waipahu YSA Branch of the LDS Church, noted its young members spent their 2014 Mormon Helping Hands Day volunteering aboard the Missouri. He compared that day “to my serving at Gettysburg National Cemetery in Pennsylvania. There’s a feeling of not only patriotism, but also of the sacrifice that took place.” Kamau’u pointed out that many other local members of the church have also provided service on the Missouri.
One of those younger Latter-day Saints is Adam Woolley, 14, a member of the nearby Halawa Ward who completed his Eagle Scout service project aboard the Mighty Mo on Nov. 8.
“I refurbished a dryer room two floors below the deck. We painted and sanded it, and made it look all pretty,” Woolley said.
Mike Foley is the assistant director for media relations of the Hawaii Public Affairs Council, and currently volunteers his Internet content skills for the Polynesian Cultural Center and other outlets.