As you walk down the deck at Patriots Point, the sight of the USS Yorktown is awe-inspiring. The massive aircraft carrier is perhaps the largest single artifact in any museum in the state if not the country. “The Fighting Lady,” as she’s been nicknamed, served in the Pacific in World War II, earned battle stars in Vietnam, and even picked up the Apollo 8 astronauts after reentry. Stepping on board, I couldn’t help but imagine all of the sailors who had done the same over the years.
Several tours will take you through the different areas of the carrier, from the snug living quarters to the engine room. But one of the most thrilling parts of the Yorktown is the 40,000 square foot hangar deck, where several military aircraft are on display. There’s a Hellcat, a Wildcat and a Cougar. Nearby there’s a B-25 Mitchell that carried the “Doolittle Raiders” in their raid over Japan in 1942.
An especially moving aspect of a visit to Patriot’s Point is a trip to the Medal of Honor Museum aboard the Yorktown. This wonderful museum highlights the history of the Congressional Medal of Honor and celebrates the Americans to whom it has been given. Ample space is given to the stories of famous medal recipients like Audie Murphy, Sgt. Alvin York and Jimmy Doolittle, but perhaps even more moving are the stories of ordinary men who went above and beyond the call of duty. The museum also focuses on those recipients whose heroism was ignored for years because of sexism, racism and discrimination, and have only more recently – and often posthumously – received the Medal of Honor.
The Patriots Point campus also includes a replica of a Vietnam-era naval support base camp that allows you to step back to another time in U.S. military history. Like the USS Yorktown, the exhibit inspires you to imagine what life must have been like for the people who lived and worked there.
The opportunity to step into the shoes of the people who protect our country is really the thrill and the importance of a place like Patriots Point. With thousands of young men and women deployed overseas, visiting Patriots Point gives us a chance to honor their service and be reminded of the realities of warfare.
The Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and active duty military with ID, $11 for children 6 to 11 and free for accompanied children younger than 6. Active duty military in uniform are admitted free. Parking is $5.