Local couple wins cruise on historic battleship

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A central Indiana couple is going on a cruise to celebrate the 4th of July.

That may not sound like anything out of the ordinary. But consider, it’s a cruise that only 150 people in the entire world get to go on.

“It would really make a dream come true, if as a helmsman to sit on the helm of the USS Constitution,” Clayton Thomas, of Cumberland, reads from a letter he wrote in the hopes of winning a lottery for a very special cruise.

Thomas, a Navy veteran, in a family with a history of naval service, wrote the letter and entered a lottery. 4,000 people tried to secure a ticket only 150 were selected.

“Just to know that this ship was built back in the 1700s and you’re going to be able to ride on this ship, of all of the naval ships. This one. I mean, it’s just thrilling,” says Thomas.

The ship Thomas will be riding was commissioned by president George Washington and launched in 1797. The USS Constitution. Old Ironsides as it’s known.

“We board at eight. The cruise is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. And I don’t know what we’re going to be doing. But it’s going to be thrilling,” he says.

Thrilling, and the last group to get this opportunity until 2018. Old Ironsides is going in for repairs.

And that’s where the story takes a twist. The White Oak that will be used to repair Old Ironsides comes from 120 to 150-year-old oak trees in a forest owned by the Navy, at the Naval Surface Warfare center, at Crane, in Southern Indiana.

“Here is a ship that the wood from the ship is from Indiana! I mean how unique is this,” he says.

For the Thomas’ an experience of a lifetime.

“I mean how many people can say that they were on the USS Constitituion in Boston Harbor during a cruise,” he says.

Clayton was a helmsman on the USS Enterprise, right after it became atomic powered, back in the 1960s. His dream is to stand at the helm of the Constitution if only for a few seconds. His grandson is currently in the Navy, stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.

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