Calling All Volunteers!
When you arrive to Patriot's Point, the USS Laffey and the USS Yorktown will greet you as you embark on your adventure. This pathway is friendly to those who would like to walk, but there is the option of catching a ride in one of the cruisers as well if you would like. Once you get across and make your way up the stairs, you will walk through what was once the elevator door to the Yorktown. When you come in, you will be greeted by smiling faces that have so much information and love for Patriot's Point at the information desk. Every individual at the information desk is a volunteer who spends a minimum of 120 hours aboard providing information and showing people around. Many of the volunteers have previous military experience, but not all were in the Navy. Across from the information desk is a wall with each of the volunteers pictures in their youth to pay homage to their service and their time aboard Patriot's Point.
The first volunteer at Patriot's Point was Mr. Don Ziglar. Don Ziglar joined the Navy in 1942 and was assigned to the USS Yorktown. Don was a helmsman during World War II. Don came back to serve aboard the Yorktown in 1994 as the first volunteer. Don was known for his storytelling and sharing his firsthand experiences on the Yorktown. He passed away in 2006. The volunteer lounge is named in his honor.
To become a volunteer, one must apply and undergo a brief training by shadowing a senior volunteer. The new volunteer must adhere to the dress code, the guidelines, and volunteer the minimum of 120 hours a year. Once the new volunteer is ready, they will provide new "sailors" with information about the tours available and show them where they are located via the map. Some of the volunteers can also provide information about the USS Yorktown itself and explain that it is a carrier. There are blueprints available for viewing on the information desk on how the carrier's flight deck used to look versus the improvements that were made when the military started using jets. These volunteers wear various hats in terms of tours. Some of the volunteers provide the Captain's Tours, which are an additional charge at the ticket booth, and the Operation Overnight tours. These tours are a little more in-depth and take the "sailors" in forbidden areas of the carrier that the normal tours do not. I have been honored to have taken both tours with Don Bommarito. Don is an 86 year old Marine. I say he is a Marine because they have a saying, "Once a Marine, Always a Marine". Don is well acquainted with Patriot's Point and works as a tour guide as well as a volunteer. He is from Philadelphia, P.A. but grew up in the Bronx. He has a very heavy Bronx accent, but it adds a lot of flavor to his tours. He interacts with the "sailors" of each tour and leaves an impression when the tour is over. I have taken a liking to Don because he tells the same stories with a different spin each time.
This is Don's picture from Parris Island.
Don explaining to an Overnight crew the functions of the planes and how the pilots would have to fight off the kamikazes.