A Letter to our Association

Written to Sonny Walker by Michelle Doniphan
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 about. 
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,


Note:  There will be an extra bonus for those attending the reunion.  Michelle and her husband, Chris, will be joining the festivities.