USS Laffey

The destroyer Laffey was nicknamed "The Ship That Would Not Die" after surviving the attack at Okinawa. Patriots Point/Provided

Patriots Point is offering free admission and parking Friday morning to help greet a former crew member of the destroyer Laffey.

Waitman Kapaldo, 97, has not been back to the Laffey since he was discharged in 1945. He was part of the D-Day invasion of Normandy and the Battle of Okinawa, manning the forward gun mount during a heavy Japanese kamikaze attack that killed 32 crew members.

Patriots Point is asking community members to join a Navy Color Guard to give him a hero's welcome as he proceeds down the pier to the ship. He will meet with visitors after a ceremony honoring the crew members who were killed.

"We want the Patriots Point pier lined with folks cheering as Mr. Kapaldo is led by the Navy Color Guard to the USS Laffey," Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette said in the announcement. "We hope to make this a very special moment for one of our country’s World War II heroes.”

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Visitors are asked to line the pier at 9:30 a.m. for Kapaldo's expected arrival at 10 a.m. After the ceremony and time to talk with Kapaldo, visitors are free to tour the Laffey, aircraft carrier Yorktown and other attractions.

Dick Whitaker, a Marine who fought on the island of Okinawa for 82 days, will also attend the ceremony.

Reach Dave Munday at 843-937-5553.