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CEO Update July 6, 2021

Happy Independence Day! July 4th is the day we celebrate our country’s freedom and reflect upon the sacrifices those who serve make for us daily. It is also the anniversary of the opening of the Battleship IOWA Museum, and this year we celebrate nine years of growth and success.

September 6, 2021 will mark the tenth year since the Navy called to award the ship to our organization. Over the past nine years, our crew has committed themselves to preserving the ship, growing our education programs, helping veterans, strengthening our community, and ultimately becoming Southern California’s symbol of American spirit. The past year has been one of the most challenging in our history, but your commitment coupled with the dedication of our crew has made us stronger and showed what we can do together. I could not be prouder of what we accomplished.

In celebration of this anniversary, the crew led by volunteer Captain Rich Abele, Philip Browning, Mike Getscher, Dave Moser, and Marann Fengler brought the IOWA to Full Dress Ship. A couple of members of the Military & Veterans Affairs team came together to hang bunting on the ship as well. The bunting and flags will remain up this week and then lowered to preserve them for future display. Thank you to the entire crew for taking this task on and working hard to show the ship off for July 4th.

Photo by Capt. Rich Abele

As we enter our tenth year, we remain on target to open the National Museum of the Surface Navy aboard Battleship IOWA on the 250th birthday of the U.S. Navy in 2025. We have made enormous strides in the campaign to build this museum and continue to do so daily. 

Last week, we were excited to be awarded $92,700 from Councilmember Joe Buscaino for the San Pedro Fallen Veterans Memorial to be placed pier side in the Freedom of the Seas Park and Pavilion. In the coming month we have a site visit scheduled with the potential funder for this park and are hopeful that we end up being awarded the grant. 

In the next couple of months, we will publicly release the Together We Served integration with our Plank Owner program, where you can register your service history or a loved one’s and connect it to your Plank Owner membership. Together We Served is a great partner for the National Museum of the Surface Navy and we look forward to growing this relationship for the benefit of all who served. Hint: as a current supporter, you can register a service history now on your Plank Owner profile by clicking here

All of this to say we have more projects on the horizon that are aimed at the National Museum transition. We are thankful to our early campaign supporters for seeing the vision and honoring those who served. 

Our Veterans West resource center is making progress and we are hopeful to open this in the coming month. As mentioned in prior emails, we are proud to now be home to the Veterans Peer Access Network (VPAN) program LA County Supervisorial District 4. The team has been focused on reaching out to veterans throughout the area to assist in navigating resources and providing peer support.

We invite you to join us in thanking veterans for their service by adding your name to the welcome board in the new Veterans Resource Center.  These opportunities rarely come along, and we want to make sure to include you.  You can learn more about this campaign here.

As we approach ten years since being awarded the ship, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my involvement with the IOWA over twenty years. I think about the people, the veterans, and those we have impacted with the story of the IOWA and the Surface Navy. 

I volunteered to save the IOWA when I was twenty-six years old, after experiencing my grandfather visiting “his ship” (USS Missouri). I had already started a couple of businesses at that point in my life, but this was early in my career and I was learning how to lead a dynamic organization. I was determined and driven to save the ship for her veterans, which remains one of the most important pillars of my involvement today. 

Over the past twenty years, I (like many others) battled personal demons that led to depression and anxiety and ultimately overeating with resulting health issues. Thankfully, I met my wife and had two wonderful children during this time. They have been incredibly supportive on this rocky journey, despite my being away from home more than two-thirds of every year (if they are reading, thank you for continuing to love and support me). 

Shortly after moving the ship to Los Angeles, I weighed in at a scale-topping 365 lbs. and was approaching forty-years old. My eating, anxiety, and depression was catching up and I was forced to begin addressing both mental and physical health issues. It was not until the pandemic, that I finally accepted the situation(s) that led to these issues over the years and started a lifetime journey learning how to take care of myself. 

The past six months I have turned my focus toward nutrition, committed myself to a regular exercise routine, and gone from 265 lbs. to 215 lbs. today (my weight went from 365 lbs. to 265 lbs. over the seven years prior). I now have my energy back from when I was twenty and best of all, I no longer deal with anxiety and depression at the level I did for many years (although many of the physical issues remain). 

I say all of this, as we each struggle with our demons, and it is my commitment to share my story to help our crew and supporters who may be struggling as well. I am looking forward to sharing more of this story in coming months, in hopes that it provides inspiration to our crew, supporters, and our future.

In closing, my best wishes to you and your family for an amazing week. Smile and say hi to those around you, as you never know how that simple gesture can change a life. Stay safe and thank you for your support.

Have a blessed week and thank you for your support.

Jonathan Williams
President and CEO

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