“I think becoming a docent has given me long life,” said Joe Neves, a 96-year-old World War II veteran who has been a USS Midway Museum docent since 2004. “Being a volunteer on Midway is the greatest thing I could think of after retiring. I’m alive now and I can say that honestly that I owe it all to the Midway. If there wasn’t a Midway Museum, there may not be a Joe Neves still kicking around today.”

These feelings about Midway, that Joe will happily tell anyone who will listen, are shared by many other museum volunteers. For them, it’s part of the magic that is Midway. Being on board puts a spark in their life that can make them feel happier, healthier and even younger.

“Just being aboard the ship makes my day brighter and lightens my mood,” said 76-year-old Bob “Doc” Werner, a docent since 2015 who is currently recovering from heart surgery. “There is so much selfless giving among the volunteers that it puts me into a happy mood just to share that atmosphere. There is always such joy and happiness on board that it is impossible to go home in a bad mood.”

The positive and upbeat attitude by Midway’s volunteers is one of the primary reasons behind the museum being ranked as the number one thing to do in San Diego by Tripadvisor.

“This was an amazing experience for our family,” said Joe from Miami in a recent Tripadvisor review. “The real difference maker for us were the Navy veterans who gave us first hand experiences. Special thanks go to the volunteer who walked us through the details related to landing jets on an aircraft carrier. He did it with humor and intelligence. It was the highlight of our trip.”

“I find great satisfaction talking to the guests, the families and seeing their excitement at experiencing something totally new,” said Doc, who is a multiple Purple Heart recipient for wounds he sustained in combat during the Vietnam War. “I particularly enjoy talking to the children and seeing the joy on their faces as they experience this great ship. The junior pilot program is so exciting to them and it makes me smile to award them their wings.”

Bob Werner
Gunner Guyer
Carole Hansen

For Ken “Gunner” Guyer, he’s still trying to put his finger on exactly what Midway brings to the table for him, but he knows for sure that it works.

“I wish I could answer that because I would bottle whatever it is and distribute it worldwide,” said Gunner, a docent since 2016 with more than 5,300 volunteer hours. “Since becoming a volunteer, I have had numerous hospital stays and repairs to my body. Each time, as I am recovering, I look forward to returning to the Midway. Once I return, there is just a satisfaction that reaches to your very core about being a part of the ship and a part of the team.”

Volunteering on Midway is a post-retirement endeavor for many. With an average age of 74, it’s not surprising that the museum’s volunteers may also navigate various health concerns as they advance into their golden years. For many, coming to Midway is tremendously therapeutic.

“We’ve both had major health issues over the years,” said safety department volunteer Carole Hansen, who along with her husband Al, have been sharing their time with the museum since 2005. “Fiercely wanting to get back to the ship has been a huge factor in our recoveries. Volunteering helps us feel that we’re still vital people who continue interacting with life.”

Although volunteering for Midway will never be seen as a formal prescription, the affects, in many cases, can be just as impactful as medication.

“I told my surgeon before I went into the hospital that it is very important that I return to the Midway,” said Doc, who has more than 3,000 volunteer hours. “I have told all my doctors that. The Midway is a vital part of my life. Volunteering to serve on the Midway is one of the best decisions I have made, if not ever. I love the ship and she has returned that love.”

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