MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Thousands of people visited Patriots Point on Veterans Day to tour the USS Yorktown. Beyond touring the exhibits, many came out to pay their respects to the many veterans who were also there.
Jack and Carter Hanson, 10-year-old twins, were among those visiting. It's their fourth time.
This trip, the brothers were on a special mission and eager to report back to someone special.
"When they come here they want to come see Mr. Harding's ship," said Scott Hanson, the boys' father.
The Hansons, who live in Raleigh, visited Patriots Point last April and met Alice.
"Once I heard that she had a brother who was on the ship I just, I just blew up, I just exploded with excitement," said Carter.
The families traded email addresses and they've been digital pen pals every since.
Robert Harding lives in Oklahoma. He served on the USS Yorktown for 19 months during WWII. During Harding's time on the warship he earned seven medals.
The boys have been hungry for any details they could get about the warship and immediately bombarded Harding with questions over email.
"'What were your duties on the ship? Were you at Okinawa? When did you serve on the Yorktown?'" said Hanson. "What 10-year-old asks those questions?"
"The first thing he said when he sent back was 'good questions'," said Jack.
They said at first, Harding responded every couple of days. Now, he responds within an hour.
"I think he wants us, and more people, to know about the Yorktown so she isn't forgotten," said Jack.
"It started off with them liking the ship and the planes, since they got to know Mr. Harding...it's become more than that," said Hanson. "They've started to envision the life on the ship."
Through dozens of emails, Harding has shared with them personal stories from his time on the warship. Including where he used to have boxing matches and what his daily tasks were.
"A lot of people died during it but Mr. Harding is making us see WWII in a different way, not just a big bloody war," said Carter.
Harding has been teaching them about the history of the ship, but now he'll see it through their eyes. During their visits, the boys took dozens of photos to email back to the 90-year-old.
"I bet when he sees the pictures, he's going to go like 'hmm that wasn't there when I was on board'," said Jack.
"I think it will do his heart good to see how the ship is being taken care of these days," said Hanson.
The Hanson's hope to one day meet Harding at the USS Yorktown. The twins want to tour the warship with him - who they now call their idol, and friend.