CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Some might say the sea was calling to U.S. Navy veteran Ken Kersch, but it was most likely the ship, since he now works on the Battleship New Jersey Museum & Memorial in Camden, NJ. It's the same ship he served on in the late 1960s.
"This was the best ship I was ever on," said Kersch. "I was in the Navy for four years."
Kersch says he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and went in February of 1966. He was first assigned to the USS Simon Lake before being transferred to the USS New Jersey.
"It was bigger than the ship I came from," he explained. "We got the ship ready for commissioning. We sailed it through the Panama Canal to Long Beach, California. From there, we did our tour in Vietnam and came back."
Kersch worked in a machine shop back in his Navy days.
"We rebuilt pumps, rebuilt valves. We made a number of gears," he said. "If they broke it, we fixed it."
Now he volunteers his time there, recently making some awards for the inaugural Admiral Halsey Awards Gala held on board the ship.
Kersch also works part-time as one of the ship's overnight encampment managers.
He says even though there were many decades between his military service on the ship and coming back to work there, he still knew his way and found all his spaces without getting lost.
"You don't forget," said Kersch.
Now, he gives tours, sharing the history of the ship from a personal perspective.
"This was my captain here - Captain J. Edward Snyder," said Kersch, pointing to his picture.
Visitors can see different areas of the ship, like the captain's in-port cabin. They can also eat in the mess hall and sleep where the sailors did.
"It gives them an insight into how they live, how they have to work and what they go through," said Kersch.
Kersch says he is proud of his time spent serving his country on America's most decorated battleship.
"The New Jersey is the longest battleship ever built by the United States Navy," he said. "It's got 19 Battle Stars."
And he says he enjoys helping to preserve the history of the ship for the next generation.
"You're given a task and you're held responsible for it," Kersch said of his time in the military.
Looking back on when he served during Vietnam, Kersch says the USS New Jersey was run by "a bunch of kids." Kersch was just 21 years old when he was on board.
"It's not a cruise ship," he said. "We worked hard."
For more information:
Battleship New Jersey Museum & Memorial