My Club House at the Naval Park
I am a RSVP volunteer and a Docent at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park. I stand watch there at least one morning a week in the summer. I can go more often if I like and often do so. With the re-watering of the Commercial Slip in downtown Buffalo and the addition of the Central Wharf, the Inner Harbor has come alive. The mouth of the Buffalo River is the place to be on a warm summer day. On Tuesdays (my day at the Park), I am usually assigned to give a tour. I meet children from day care centers, and students from elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and colleges. I meet people from different states and different countries, as well as local people who share my love of military history.
I meet and greet military groups, religious groups, International groups, young and old. I have a great time talking about Buffalo, Wold War II, the Cold War, the Navy, the military, the Erie Canal and anything else that comes to mind. These ships are historic monuments to a bygone era. They stand for the sacrifices our sons and daughters, parent and grandparents have made to protect the freedoms we have today. I am proud to be part of these exhibits and tell the story of these World War II era ships.
I occasionally spend a few hours on a Friday or Saturday evening helping at our weapons demonstration. Scouts and other groups sleep on board the cruiser USS Little Rock in spring and fall. They not only get a chance to view weapons from WW I through today, but also get a chance to handle them as they are non-operational and allow the groups to experience them in a safe non-theatening environment. The children and their parents and chaperones seem to enjoy the interaction as much as I do.
A few docents with trade experience have done odd jobs around the ships, such as a retired electrician whohelped with wiring. Some Navy veterans have chipped and painted. I’ve changed light bulbs and done a little painting in the past.
Various organizations have secured areas aboard the USS Little and set up small museum displays dedicated to their organization or their experiences. Since I am a Vietnam Veteran, my favorite is the cabin dedicated to the Vietnam war. In fact, I managed to sneak my picture into one of the displays. I spend a few extra minutes in this area when giving a tour to see if the children can spot me as I was 40+ years ago and some 50 pounds lighter.
If you enjoy military history, can climb a ladder to go up and down a few decks, and like to meet and greet people, come join our club. We are always looking to train new docents. A few of us are veterans from the Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines. A few of us are also civilians, teachers, college students, men, and women willing to train and learn the history of these ships. Some of us give tours and some stand watch (greeting visitors as they come aboard our destroyer, the USS Sullivans). We all have a good time.