Navy veterans reunite for fallen shipmates

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A group of Navy veterans have gathered in central Indiana to honor a tragic day that connects them.

Approximately a dozen men, and their families, who served aboard the U.S.S. Hyman are reuniting to honor the men killed during a World War II attack.

On April 6, 1945, the Hyman was hit by a kamikaze aircraft. Along with heavy damage to the ship, 12 servicemen on board were killed.

The loss is memorialized at Henry County Memorial Park in New Castle, with the 12 names etched in stone along with others "Lost at Sea" during World War II and the Korean War.

The memorial was erected in 2010, and made possible by a New Castle native, Dick Leitch, who was an original crew member of the ship. Leitch passed away in early 2017.

Each April 6, surviving shipmen of the Hyman come to the memorial to honor the lives lost and catch up with friends.

“An opportunity to hang out some of your old shipmates," said Wayne Lunder, who served on the ship between 1959 and 1961. "Some you served with and some are much older than us, but it’s still an opportunity to talk to them. It’s like a mini reunion for us.”

The ship would get repaired and stay in the Navy's fleet until it was decommissioned in 1969.

“We were all aboard on the same ship," said Jim Hughs, who lives in Zionsville. "We talk about the time we went to the Mediterranean Sea, down through the Red Sea, into the Indian Ocean, and back. We talked about the time we rode a hurricane."

This year, some ship alumni arrived in central Indiana to spend more time with one another. They spent the day touring Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a first for many and their relatives who joined them.

A World War II veteran from the ship has made the trip for Friday's service but was unable to make the trip to the track. His fellow shipmates said the World War II veteran was 17 when he was sent to war.