'You guys are family with us now': Iowa 47 honored on 33-year anniversary

'You guys are family with us now,' Iowa 47 honored on 33 year anniversary
Posted at 1:22 PM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-19 17:15:23-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Veterans and military families gathered at Naval Station Norfolk Tuesday to honor the Iowa 47.

Thirty-three years ago, on April 19, 1989, a gun turret on the Norfolk-based battleship USS Iowa exploded and killed 47 Sailors. It is remembered as one of the worst peace-time disasters for the Navy.

The annual ceremony focused on healing and closure.

"It's very healing to come together and get some closure every year," said Mike Schlemmer, a Navy veteran who was there that dreadful day.

Both veterans and military family members came together as a family to honor those lost and remember them together.

"You guys are family with us now - now and forever," said one speaker.

"I lost my brother 33 years ago, but I have gained so many brothers in the years that have passed, and I hold you all dear in my heart," followed another speaker. "As everyone has said, if you need someone to talk to, it's only a phone call away."

Attendees and speakers also discussed their shared mental turmoil, such as PTSD, depression, substance abuse and survivors' guilt.

"If you have PTSD, get help. Get that virus off your hard drive. Go to the VA [Veterans' Affairs]," said Schlemmer.

"We live for each other, we live for our families and we keep pushing forward, even when we don't feel that we can," said guest speaker Michele Gustafson. "God bless the Iowa 47."