WILMINGTON -- It was an emotional day Sunday at the battleship North Carolina as former crew members gathered to remember the ship's veterans who died this year. Hundreds of former World War II battleship North Carolina crew members and their families met at the bow of the ship to pay tribute to their deceased crew members. Former crew member Fred Velloetri said, "I'm down here to take care of the shipmates that have fallen and we're honoring them because we miss them so much they were part of our life. We all loved each other and it's a sad occasion for all of us." Thirty-five World War II crew members passed away this year, and each was honored with a ring of the bell and shots fired into the sky. "We remember them all," Former crew member Jerry Johnson said. "We really established some really warm friendships but now we're seeing those friendships disappear every year but not the memories." Memories remembered as new widows threw flowers into the Cape Fear River and a wreath was hung from the battleship. "We had the best crew in the Navy and you can see from the ship the way it is and it took us home, which is the most important part." At the end of the ceremony on the battleship final requests were made as two former crew member's ashes were thrown off the bow and into the river. Two of the 35 former World War II crew members -- Charles Neikirt and Preston Stallings -- have made their final resting place the Cape Fear River, but none of the men or their service for our country will ever be forgotten. Former World War II crew members say this weekend was also a time to pass their legacy onto new crew members of the newest USS North Carolina.
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