(08/07/12) - After eight years and thousands of hours of work, the USS Edson is now at her new home.
Launched in 1958, the 418 feet Navy destroyer spent 30 years serving our country.
Three weeks ago, she was at a Navy shipyard in Philadelphia.
Tuesday, she arrived in Bay County, where she's expected to live out her golden years.
It's only fitting that the president of the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum was the first to step aboard the USS Edson.
"She came up the river with nose up high. She looks great. Good ole' lady, and she's home," said Michael J. Kegley.
Kegley, and several other committee members have spent nearly two decades trying to get a ship to Bay County.
"You know there's been days that I walked out of the office at night and I was sputtering and talking like a sailor, and I said I'm not coming back to this," Kegley said.
Each time, he did come back.
And in 2004, the first application for the Edson was turned in.
"Stood 7.5 inches tall, it weighed 17 pounds," Kegley said.
Several applications and studies later, they learned the Edson was theirs in 2007.
Onlookers say she's picture perfect, despite decades of wear and tear.
"Just hard to imagine though that it looks this big, that it was out in the ocean in storms or something like that, probably was one heck of a ride," said Linwood resident Ken Zimmerman.
"The kids can come on and learn what a sailor's life was like, what he had to live with everyday. Where he slept, where he ate. Where he watched the nightly movie," Kegley said.
A few people got a quick chance to get on board Tuesday. Among them, a few sailors who once called the Edson home.
"One fourth of my Navy career was on her. So yes, there's a tremendous amount of memories on here," said Dale Wells, Former USS Edson Crew Member.
From 1974 to 1979, Wells got to know the Edson inside and out.
"I was on here when the fire room burnt, I was there as we evacuated Vietnam," Wells said.
Wells, Brad Apley and a few other crew members had to see her one more time.
"It's like finding an old friend again," Apley said.
Apley came all the way from Washington state. Once aboard, the memories of his two years on board, came back.
"You learn to live in close quarters. Very close. It was interesting, it was fun," Apley said.
Money is still being raised to fix up the ship, something Wells wishes he could do more about.
"Well I'd like to have my crew, my shipmates aboard to do a little work on her, but she's looking pretty good," Wells said.
For now, she's docked at the Wirt Stone Dock in Essexville.
Crews are working to get her permanent hoe set up, just up river.
That's when the USS Edson will begin what many hope is her last mission, as a museum.
ABC12 Main Station