Over the MLK holiday I took the family to visit the USS Iowa that is permanently docked down in San Pedro. Ever since it was moved here in October, I wanted to visit the famous battleship. Wanting to avoid the huge crowds that it attracted, I figured a Sunday with two NFL playoff games was a good day to go.

Since the attraction is fairly new, no guided tours are available yet. However, strategically spread around the massive ship are volunteers, including former veterans who speak firsthand about the experiences of being on the Iowa. The information these folks provide is worth the trip itself. It makes such a difference to hear from those who know rather than from those who memorize a script.

Two things we noticed right away. One was the low overhang so that even someone 5’10” would have to lower his head in order to avoid banging it on the ceiling. Also, every time you move from one room to another you have to be careful to step over each of the hatch openings.

While some of these mild hazards may be better marked in the future, it was fairly liberating to notice how little accommodations have been made so far to the ship, preserved as closely as possible to the way it was while in operation.

Walking five stories up and down the steep narrow stairs gives a layperson a better grasp of the living conditions the servicemen dealt with. Being put in the place of a soldier gives visitors an appreciation of the tough job of those who defend our country.

One of the more moving things to see is a plaque dedicated to 47 sailors who lost their lives back in 1987 due to a freak fire that occurred during a basic drill.

Sunday may not have been officially Veteran's Day or Memorial Day, but for me it was both. Thank you to those who serve.

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BRIAN CROSBY is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District and the author of "Smart Kids, Bad Schools and The $100,000 Teacher." He can be reached at brian-crosby.com.