Commander, Submarine Group Two

USS Helena (SSN 725) Sailors pose with Bud Harney, center, a former gunfire control man
who served aboard USS HELENA (CL-50), and members of South Berwick, Maine’s VFW
Post 5744. Helena coordinated the visit to the New Hampshire Veterans Home with the VFW.
Helena is currently undergoing maintenance in Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.
Photo by Jackie Bonafide of the New Hampshire Veteran's Home.

Sub Sailors Share Stories, Fellowship at Veterans Center

 TILTON, N.H. - Sailors assigned to Los Angeles class submarine USS Helena (SSN 725) visited former service members at the New Hampshire Veterans Center in Tilton, N. H., on Feb. 20.   

 The Sailors worked with South Berwick, Maine’s VFW Post 5744 to organize the event with the center. 

 Upon arrival, the Sailors were eagerly greeted by a myriad of resident veterans who were excited to see their youthful counterparts and share stories with one another of times past and present over a cup of coffee. 

 The residents of the center represented all branches of the military and nearly every war of the last century.  Many recounted their times of service and drew comparisons between themselves and the Sailors on hand. Several veterans, enamored by the dress-blue uniforms worn by Helena’s crew, were amazed that the uniforms retained a great deal of traditionalism, even though so much has changed since their respective stints in the service.   From style to insignia, every aspect of the uniform was carefully inspected, and the stories or reasons behind them were discussed.   

 One resident in particular, Bud Harney, shared a special connection with the submarine sailors.  Harney served as a gunfire controlman on the World War II-era light cruiser, USS Helena (CL-50), also named after the capital of Montana.   

 Several times Harney expressed his gratitude to the Helena Sailors for sharing an unforgettable moment.   Before leaving, the crew presented Harney a hat bearing the submarine’s moniker “USS HELENA SSN 725” as a token, connecting his past with the present. 

 Because of physical conditions, some veterans were unable to make it to the center’s commons area to fellowship and reminisce. So, some Helena Sailors reached out to them individually, making special visits to each of their rooms. 

 Electronics Technician 2nd Class Matthew Fedele commented on the occasion saying, “So often society’s youth is celebrated and heralded almost exclusively.   After visiting with these folks, it’s hard to understand why we don’t pay tribute to our elders more often. They are the accomplished ones.”

 Although the visit to the veteran’s center only lasted a few short hours, a lasting impression was made among both groups.  

 “It was a gratifying experience and interesting to hear how different the Navy is now compared to how it was at the time these veterans served, “added Logistics Specialist Seaman David Terrones. 

 Helena, homeported in San Diego, arrived at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard last September for extended maintenance, including several system upgrades.  During her time in New England, Helena sailors have fervently involved themselves with several area events and organizations.

 Helena was commissioned on July 11, 1987. The sub's motto is "Proud and Fearless."