The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) will offer free public tours in honor of Veterans Day during its stay outside of the Santa Barbara harbor.
The Milius, measuring 154 meters long and carrying 281 navy personnel, will be open to Santa Barbara Navy League members this Saturday and to the general public this Sunday and Monday. The ship’s crew will also participate in several commemorative celebrations including the Santa Barbara Veterans Day Parade tomorrow on State Street, the 16th annual Pierre Claeyssens Military Ball on Saturday and several other community outreach events.
According to Santa Barbara Navy League President Kevin McTague, the Milius’ visit gives community members a chance to personally meet troops.
“The number one benefit is that local residents get to interact with some of the men and women serving in the Navy and see the level of professionalism they conduct themselves with,” McTague said. “Seeing the Milius gives an opportunity for the taxpayers to see where there money is going. The public gets to interact with the sailors and come away with a sense of pride in their military … it is chance for them to see where their support of the military goes.”
The USS Milius is named after Captain Paul Milius, a Navy pilot whose craft was shot down during the Vietnam War. Although his remains were never found, Milius posthumously received the Navy Cross for ordering his crew to abandon the plane safely while he remained to maintain vehicle control. Commander Nicholie Bufkin is the ship’s commanding officer and is the first female to hold the position aboard the Milius.
Crew members will also have an opportunity to take shore-leave and participate in a variety of local activities, McTague said.
“The ship’s sailors will participate in the Veterans Day parade [and] a beach cleanup at East Beach; they will visit a children’s hospital, play the Fire Department in softball game, challenge the local ultimate frisbee team — the Condors — to a game and will visit the Ronald Reagan Ranch,” McTague said.
Santa Barbara-based ocean adventure company SEA Landing will ferry people to the destroyer-class vessel.
SEA Landing employee Thomas Jackson said the company expects to accommodate several hundred attendees for each tour date.
“We are way excited about the arrival of the Milius — we are hopeful it will bring us some extra business.” Jackson said. “We are expecting anywhere between 600 and 650 people per day who will need to be transported out to the cruiser.”
According to McTague, the vessel’s availability over the holiday weekend provides a unique educational opportunity to local residents.
“We had written letters requesting a ship’s visit and we were notified a few months ago [that] it may be available,” McTague said. “We found out six weeks ago they would be coming. We had requested Veterans Day and were lucky to get a ship that could make it then.”
People interested in touring the vessel can call SEA Landing at (805) 963-3564 to make reservations.