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Sailor remembers growing up on the USS Orleck

After serving on the USS Orleck during the Vietnam War, Rick Butler remembers his time on the ship that will soon call Jacksonville home.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — This weekend one of the most decorated ships in the history of the Navy will officially call Jacksonville its home.  

The USS Orleck has 18 Battle Stars from its service during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the ship is sailing to Jacksonville right now to become the centerpiece of the Jacksonville Naval Museum.

Leading up to its arrival, First Coast News is profiling some of the sailors who served on the USS Orleck.  

As the USS Orleck makes its way from Texas to Jacksonville memories begin to flood back to Rick Butler in his home in Colorado.  His photo albums come to life.

"It made me grow up," said Butler, "anybody that's been on the Orleck were blessed."

Butler served on the Orleck twice during the Vietnam War between 1967 and 1971. 

"We went up and down the coastline as gun support," said Butler, "we got to be top gun over there, which means we shot more 5 inch rounds than any other destroyer over there.  At one time we got bombarded by the North Vietnamese, they fired at us, we got away from that, luckily they didn't hit our ship, but they tried."

He worked as a Machinist's Mate, or "snipe" as he calls his job in the engine room; a hot area of the ship, but an important one.

"We'd go down to the engine room and you had a throttle board and the bridge would send down signals to the engine room of what the shafts would do and that would drive the ship," said Butler.

More than 50 years have gone by since Rick Butler spent his nights on the USS Orleck.

"You could see how the guys slept in the little racks," recalled Butler, "there wasn't a lot of room, but you adapted."

Not a day goes by the Rick Butler doesn't remember being a part of the crew on the Grey Ghost of the Vietnam Coast.

"It was awesome and still is," said Butler, "to this day I've always been so proud of being on the Orleck.  It means so much to me to have it saved so my kids and everybody that I know down there in Jacksonville can see the history."

A history that will soon be on display in the St. John's River as part of the Jacksonville Naval Museum.

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