Plus an exclusive interview with US Navy Vice Admiral Daniel Dwyer
The USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum was buzzing with activity on Veterans Day as visitors observed the holiday with a full slate of events. In celebration of the USS Hornet reaching two significant milestones this year—80 years since its commissioning and 25 years serving as an educational resource—the Museum offered free admission to thank the community for its ongoing support.
“We’re one of the largest tourist attractions in Alameda, hosting up to 14,000 school kids each year,” said Laura Fies, the Museum’s Chief Operating Officer. “Looking ahead, we’d like to expand the reach of our educational programs and expand the focus of the Hornet as a workshop to teach STEM.”
The Hornet’s annual Veterans Day celebration kicked off with a mid-morning ceremony, featuring remarks from United States Navy Vice Admiral (VADM) Daniel Dwyer and Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
Dwyer called aircraft carriers “linchpins of every naval battle” and discussed the history of the USS Hornet. As the eighth vessel to bear the name “Hornet,” the CV-12 served briefly on the Pacific front during World War II. Its predecessor, the USS Hornet CV-8, launched the Doolittle Raid in April 1942 and was sunk by the Japanese later that year. The CV-12 was decommissioned in June 1970, but not before serving as the recovery ship for the Apollo 11 splashdown.
“Its legacy inspires future aviators to new horizons,” declared Dwyer. An Alameda native, he also explained how his upbringing on the island shaped his desire to pursue a military career—a topic further explored in an exclusive interview with the Alameda Post later in this article.
Congresswoman Lee spoke about her father, who served in World War II and the Korean War, and how his actions continue to motivate her political work.
“I know the courage it takes to answer our nation’s call for service,” said Lee. “That’s why I’ve worked tirelessly to push for the housing and healthcare benefits that our veterans deserve.” She also presented two resolutions she has submitted to Congress in recognition of the Hornet’s dual anniversaries and its status as a Smithsonian Affiliate.
Following the speeches, Chaplain Dr. Wallace Whatley led the audience to the rear of the vessel for the wreath-laying ceremony honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
In the early afternoon, museum-goers made their way up to the flight deck in anticipation of a two-plane flyover by Duane Doyle and USS Hornet Chief Executive Officer, Captain Mark Epperson. The crowd cheered as the planes flew overhead and circled the carrier three times.
The day’s events helped José and Darlene Alvarez connect with their son, Amadeus, who is currently serving overseas in Japan.
“[Dwyer] had a wonderful message. He tied the past and present together,” said José.
“And it’s fun learning about the ship!” added their daughter, Mia.
“It’s a way to pay respect to the people who gave the utmost so that the rest of us could enjoy freedom,” said Shaun, who was visiting from Daly City.
Throughout the day, it was clear that visitors were heeding Dwyer’s call to action: “Learn from the veterans among you, ask them questions, and thank them and their family for their service. We owe them a debt of gratitude.”
Exclusive Interview with US Navy Vice Admiral Daniel Dwyer
What was it like to grow up in Alameda?
I was born and raised during the Vietnam War. In the ‘80s, Alameda was a Navy town, and the active air station was impressive to be around. Seeing the ships and aircraft flying around and watching World War II movies with carrier battles inspired me.
What shaped your decision to attend the California Maritime Academy and ultimately join the Navy?
I grew up sailing and was often out on the water. The California Maritime Academy gave us the opportunity for a career in maritime. At the time, President Reagan had put out a call for people to join the Navy, so I applied for flight school.
Does your family have a history of serving in the military?
Yes, my grandfather served in World War II and he provided motivation for me to join the Navy.
You have served all over the world. What has been your most harrowing moment? Your proudest moment?
Well, anytime you land a high-performance aircraft on a carrier is harrowing! When I led my first squadron in Japan, I remember watching the team responding and every person coming together—I was so proud to see it!
How would you describe your career? Is it linear? Does it come with ups and downs?
It’s been a series of challenges. Each time you face a hardship, it’s about how you respond to that challenge. It’s the ultimate team sport. You know you can lean on support from others. Everyone who serves may face situations that seem impossible, but it’s the strong support structure that keeps us going.
Is there someone who has really helped you that has been pivotal in your career?
Most would say that senior members are very helpful. We try to remember the leadership of our commanding officers and emulate the greatness we saw in them. As we continue to serve, we strive to make them proud.
How has your three-decade career shaped who you are as a person?
It’s really less about you, but rather the men and women in your charge. You are entrusted in their care and you look out for them and their professional growth. As you become more senior, the responsibility grows more acute. It’s my job to get behind them.
How does your family continue to serve you today?
My youngest went to three different high schools—I went to just one. I think living all over the world has made them more resilient.
What’s next for you?
I’m just thankful to be able to serve. I’m the Commander of the US Second Fleet in Norfolk, Virginia, and it’s our job to protect the Atlantic. Today, it’s a chance to celebrate, talk to volunteers who have served on other Naval ships, and to see their pride.
What is the key message you want to convey on this Veterans Day?
Seek out the veterans among us. Hear their stories before we can’t hear them again. Talk to them and ask them about their experiences. Many of them are humble and think that they were just doing their job or their duty, but it’s an incredible commitment. We’re the greatest nation on earth. Other countries look to the U.S. for strength and examples of what democracy can bring. Our veterans defend our democratic values.