WILMINGTON -- One of the country's most stirring monuments to war time service sits in the Cape Fear River -- the battleship North Carolina.
The ship and its sailors have a remarkable history. That's where we start this week's Wilmington edition of Cape Fear Pride.
Since 1961 the USS North Carolina has called Wilmington home. Before that, she made her mark on the world.
Battleship North Carolina executive director Capt. David Scheu said, "She was at every major step, all the way across the pacific. And because of that she's received 15 battle stars, the most decorated US battleship in World War II."
The Battleship North Carolina was one of the first new battleships to enter Pearl Harbor after the attack -- a symbol of hope to the US. After spending time in the pacific, Caribbean, and other parts of the world, the ship was decommissioned and docked for good in Wilmington as a World War II memorial.
Scheu said, "Bringing the ship here was a significant undertaking. It brings something structurally very prominent to the city. Historically it brings prominence to the city."
It isn't hard to miss this ship when you're driving through Wilmington, yet Capt. Scheu says so many people are oblivious to it. One hope of his is that visitors walk away with a better appreciation of our nation's history.
Scheu said, "Some of the things we try to share with visitors to get them to realize that freedom isn't free, that it cost lives."
Isaac Daily is learning that lesson early in life. He asked to spend his fourth birthday on the battleship. Susan Imhoff was impressed by her young grandson and his understanding of the bravery of those who served on board.
Imhoff said, "It's just so important that the kids know how brave all these guys were and that they're defending our freedom. I think that's something that the young kids don't understand, they take it for granted."
Battleship visitor William Gosline said, "To look at this, you wonder how they did it. This battleship is big, but the quarters downstairs are small."
Gosline lives in Wilmington and says he's proud to show the ship to his visiting relatives. "It's just nice to see why we can stand here today and talk to you, is because all the men and women what they do for this country to give us our freedom and a lot of people forget that."
The battleship is more than 700 feet long and weights 45,000 tons.