A Letter to our Association
Written to Sonny Walker by
21 August 2004
reproduced on this website
with her permission
Dear Mr. Walker,
My name is Michelle Doniphan and I am a teacher in the
Charleston County School District. This past April (during the week of your
work party), my Fifth grade students and I had the wonderful pleasure of
meeting three of the Laffey's most dedicated seamen. I wanted to write to you
and share our remarkable and warm memories of that day.
As we approached the Laffey, we were greeted by the
most gentle smile we had ever seen. It was Mr. Jim Spriggs. He greeted us with
open arms and proceeded to ask us about our visit upon the Laffey. We
explained that we were from a local elementary school and were completing one
of the "Scavenger Hunts" during our field trip. Mr. Spriggs patiently listened
to our questions. He started explaining what each answer was in the most
endearing and thoughtful and attentive manner. My students and I were
immediately interested in the stories and history that we were learning about.
During that time, Mr. Bob Hill and Mr. Richard McKinney
came up to help us better comprehend the magnitude of taking care of "her."
They explained that men from all over came back to Charleston each year to
restore her for future generations to see. In their eyes, I could tell that
the memories they were sharing with us were heartrending.
And as we stood there, the Scavenger Hunt lost all
importance. We were enthralled in these three men's encounters with war. My
students were listening to first-hand accounts of what they only saw at a
distance on TV. As a young teacher myself, (I'm only 29) I learned so much
during that hour that no textbook could ever teach. A new sense of reverence
came over me. There could not have been a better moment in time and in
opportunity than to be standing there sharing it with my students.
I walked away that day knowing that my life had changed
forever. My students walked away with the realization that war is by no means
"glorious" as so many see on TV with the "good guys beating the bad guys." My
students actually stopped and shared with me as we were leaving that those men
who had served and were still serving had wives and children and grandchildren
and mothers and fathers who all had to be without them during the wars. They,
beyond a shadow of a doubt, had learned exactly what I did. That these men
were true heroes and had made it back from some of the worst times in history
to be able to share their stories with us. What a remarkable understanding
these children developed in a little over an hour. I knew that I could never
do that within the classroom. This was the lesson that every teacher dreams
Saying all of this, I hope that you know how touched
our lives were by this encounter. I have no connection to any type of
military. None of my immediate family has ever joined. But, I joined the
Laffey Association to help share the love and respect for "her." As Mr. Hill
put it so eloquently when asked, "Why are you here year after year?" His
reply, "Because she brought us home."
Thank you for all that you do to help protect our
generations to not see what you have, but to share your experiences so that
history doesn't repeat itself.
God Bless You,
will be an extra bonus for those attending the reunion. Michelle and her
husband, Chris, will be joining the festivities.