SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- History was made June 17 pierside at Naval Base San Diego during a touching reunion 50 years in the making.
Sailors aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83) were treated to a firsthand account history lesson from the remaining survivors of the Battle of Hill 488, a conflict from the Vietnam War.
Bill Norman, Joe Kosoglow, Dan Mulvihill, and Ray Hildreth -- Marine Corps veterans and members of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division -- shared their stories with Howard's Sailors and the "Howard sisters", who are the daughters of 1st Sgt. Jimmie E. Howard, the ship's namesake.
The small platoon was serving under Howard's charge during the Battle of Hill 488, the Vietnam mission where he earned the Medal of Honor.
The visit coincided with the 50th anniversary of the June 15, 1966 battle and was the first time in nearly 50 years members of the group have seen each other since the war.
"We are truly honored to have been able to take part in this event," said Cmdr. Amy McInnis, Howard commanding officer. "The events that transpired at Hill 488 are still very present in the minds of all of our Sailors."
During the visit, the members of the platoon gathered in he ship's wardroom alongside the Howard sisters -- Yvonne, Yvette, Barbara, Linette, and Darlene Howard -- and the crew to shared their fondest memories of the battle hero and the tremendous events of the historic battle.
According to the Medal of Honor citation presented by President Lyndon Johnson, Howard, along with an 18-man platoon, was manning an observation post atop Hill 488 when an estimated battalion-sized enemy force launched an attack.
"Reacting swiftly and fearlessly in the face of the overwhelming odds, G/Sgt. Howard skillfully organized his small but determined force into a tight perimeter defense and calmly moved from position to position to direct his men's fire," read the citation. "Through his extraordinary courage and resolute fighting spirit, G/Sgt. Howard was largely responsible for preventing the loss of his entire platoon."
Darlene Howard expressed her gratitude for the reunion and history lesson stating, "This is an opportunity for us to be grateful to the Sailors because they honor our father and our country."
"And it's very humbling for us that they carry on all of this, and my dad would be so proud," Barbara added.
The guests were also treated to a tour of the ship, which included stops on the ship's bridge, boat deck, forecastle, helicopter hanger, and flight deck. The last stop on the tour was the Medal of Honor Passageway -- a hallway within the ship which houses the history of USS Howard, including memorabilia from Howard's military career.
"It was a tremendous honor to serve under Sergeant Howard," said Mulvihill during an emotional recount of his time as a lance corporal.
"I probably would not be here if it were not for him," Hildreth added.
As the group traveled down the passageway, the mood intensified as each guest studied the mementoes lining the bulkhead. From the medals and photos to the brightly colored red deck, selected to pay homage to the Marine Corps, each guest seemed to soak up the almost tangible spirit of honor that filled the space.
"Being a part of this today kind of puts things into perspective about where we are right now and what could happen," said Damage Controlman 2nd Class Greg Schwartz. "It just reminds me to be prepared for anything."
The visit concluded at the ship quarterdeck where McInnis traded hugs, handshakes and farewells with the Howard family and the Hill 488 veterans. As the groups parted ways, McInnis remained confident the service carried out on Hill 488 and the memories created during the visit would endure with the crew.
"We hope that we can honor the memories of those that served there [at Hill 488] in all of our future endeavors," she said.
USS Howard is assigned to Commander, Destroyer Squadron 9 and is homeported in San Diego.
For more information, visit http://www.navy.mil/, http://www.facebook.com/usnavy/, or http://www.twitter.com/usnavy/.
To read the Medal of Honor citation for 1st Sgt. Howard visit, http://www.public.navy.mil/surfor/ddg83/Pages/namesake.aspx/.
For more information on USS Howard, visit http://www.public.navy.mil/surfor/ddg83/.