It's the 25th anniversary for Oklahoma City and the boat that bears its name, and the relationship seems to get better every day.
Cmdr. Andrew Peterson III and five of his sailors are learning how much central Oklahoma residents appreciate the relief efforts organized by the USS Oklahoma City's crew after the May tornadoes.
Despite being 7,000 miles from central Oklahoma, at their base in Guam, the submarine's sailors organized a blood drive and collected money for the United Way of Central Oklahoma.
Now, they're feeling the love.
“It's been as good for us as it has for the folks we've met around the city as we've traveled over the last few days,” Peterson said Thursday during a stop at Capitol Hill High School, where the submariners met with about 100 Navy Junior ROTC students.
On a weeklong visit while their boat is in San Diego for maintenance, crew members are being stopped on the streets by residents who say “thanks for serving,” Peterson said.
“It definitely makes you proud to be an American to be here in Oklahoma City,” he said.
“They're so proud of their military. And when they find out that we're serving on their submarine, that intense patriotism goes up a level that you can't even begin to describe.”
Dozens of United Way staff members crowded into a conference room this week to show the sailors how their generosity is making a difference — and to hear about life aboard the boat.
From counseling for schoolchildren to replacing things that were lost, Peterson said the sailors learned they're part of a long-term mission to “kind of rebuild the soul of a lot of the people who were affected.”