The Capital City's welcome to sailors from the USS Jefferson City continued Wednesday as Missouri Gov. Mike Parson hosted them in his office for a meet and greet.
"I appreciate your service," the governor told the sailors. "I wouldn't be here today if I didn't serve my country. And I think at 19 years old you probably don't understand what the flag represents or what the Pledge of Allegiance represents until you actually serve your country."
Parson, who enlisted in the U.S. Army when he was 19 years old, said serving his country for six years was one of his greatest honors.
Frank Cook, chief of the boat, said it was phenomenal to meet Parson.
"Everybody in the city of Jefferson City has been nothing but warm and welcoming," Cook said. "And just being able to meet the governor and exchange gratitude for what he does for the state, it was a unique and phenomenal experience."
Five sailors from the Navy submarine bearing the name of Missouri's Capital City, along with state Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville, and Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin, visited Parson on Wednesday afternoon amid a tour of the city and state.
The Navy sailors arrived in Jefferson City earlier this week and were recognized Monday at City Hall.
The USS Jefferson City is a Navy submarine based out of Guam whose 130-crew can be called to serve active missions at any notice. The underwater craft was commissioned 30 years ago and was previously based out of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii before being relocated to Guam in December 2021.
Parson and the crew exchanged commemorative coins, and the governor shared stories from his time in the Army and serving the state, like the time he was asked to be admiral of the Nebraska Navy.
"So there really is this tradition in Nebraska of being an honorary admiral of the Navy in Nebraska," Parson said. "... Anyhow, they consider the ocean part of Nebraska, I guess."
The governor asked the sailors about their hometowns, potential common acquaintances and plans for their visit to Missouri.
Of the five sailors visiting from the submarine, only one is from Missouri. The rest come from New York, Georgia, South Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Sean Sanderfer, 23, is from Tunas, Missouri, in Hickory County. He serves as a sonar technician aboard the submarine.
Sanderfer said it was neat visiting the Governor's Office, which he had never seen before. He had met Parson before, however.
"It was really good to see him again," he said. "Me and my family really respect the man and what he does for the state."
Being stationed on a boat named after the capital city of his home state was complete luck, Sanderfer said. He simply wanted to be stationed somewhere warm and chose Guam.
Following the governor's meet and greet, the submarine crew members toured the Capitol dome. The sailors left the Capitol with preliminary plans to visit the Governor's Mansion today.
The Navy makes namesake visits important, Cook said, because they are a way of creating familiarity on both sides. The USS Jefferson City crew is one of the first to make a namesake visit since they were halted amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Coming back and rekindling those relationships post-pandemic is absolutely vital to what we do," he said. "The goal for this is for the sailors to take back to my crew on the Jefferson City just the experiences and to share."
"The support is there from people you really haven't met," he continued.
Cook said he wants people from Jefferson City to ask the sailors questions and learn more about the way of life in the Jefferson City of the ocean.
The Navy crew will finish out its stay in Jefferson City with Arris' Pizza at 11 a.m. today and Thursday Night Live at 7:30 p.m., and Oscar's Classic Diner at 8:30 a.m. Friday.