LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The fate of the USS Orleck is unknown.
The 71-year-old ship needs support - both in volunteers and financially. Now, board members have only three weeks to make a decision - try to raise enough money to keep the ship afloat, or sell it to a salvage yard.
"This was my home for three years," said retired Sonarman 1st Class Gene Haynes.
Haynes served aboard the USS Orleck during the Korean War. The vessel took him all over the world, and now, brings him to Lake Charles where he's seeing the ship for the first time since 1955.
"As I approached it," Haynes explained, "I had a peculiar feeling. It brought back a lot of fond memories."
Haynes wants his children and grandchildren to one day be able to visit the Orleck.
"Because they're interested in seeing what their Paw Paw did," said Haynes.
Unfortunately, there's a chance that may not happen.
The Orleck survived the Cold War, Korea, and Vietnam, but it's a fight with finances that may sink it.
"I don't know if maybe it's just a sign of our culture," said Mark Boudreaux, President of the USS Orleck Naval Museum Board, "A lot of people don't get in to going to museums, much less museum ships, but it's sad there's not more interest."
The ship has hosted about 100,000 visitors since it docked in Lake Charles five years ago, but that alone is not enough income to keep up repairs and insurance on it.
It's always been the dream to move the Orleck to the lakefront at the Isle of Capri, but the casino is being sold.
At one point, a potential buyer had plans for the ship.
"Mr. David Farrell, who we had been talking to for quite a while, had a significant amount of money in his budget for us," said Orleck Director Ron Williams.
Hopes were high until August, when it was announced the Isle of Capri was going to a different buyer, Laguna Development Corporation. Skip Sayre, the group's chief of sales and marketing, said their own business must come first, before diving into anything else in the community.
"It's not high on our priority list; we're not sure it fits into the business plan that we ultimately plan to implement at that site," said Sayre, "It's just premature to make any kind of commitments to anything right now until - as we've said many times - we complete the licensing process."
As the chances of a lakefront location are slim, there is another option on the table.
"Someone would buy the ship and we would take as many of the artifacts off the ship as we can and give them to the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi," said Boudreaux, "The ship would then, after everything important is off of it, it would go to a scrapyard and get cleaned up, and the particular offer we have right now is to make a dive reef out of it."
The buyer would sink the USS Orleck off the coast of Texas.
The clock is ticking and the decision must be made within the next few weeks. If the board waits to find out what could happen on the lakefront, it could lose out on the current offer. Until then, supporters are working to save the ship with fund-raising efforts, while veterans and former residents of the Orleck are hoping this piece of history doesn't meet a watery grave.
For more information, visit the USS Orleck's website. There you can find more on the ship's history, how to volunteer, and where to donate.