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'This is why we fight': Navy sailors who will serve on USS Iowa submarine spend Thanksgiving in the state

During their weeklong trip, the sailors are building relationships with Iowans before they ship out on the battleship named for the state.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The USS Iowa battleship has been retired for decades, but the its legacy lives on—and not just in the replica that sits at the Iowa Statehouse. 

A USS Iowa submarine is currently being commissioned, and three of the sailors set to serve on it are spending a week in the state after which their ship is named. 

"I've never been to the Midwest before," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Christenson, one of the sailors. "So I thought this was a great opportunity to actually see what the heartland of America looks like. I'm very impressed."

Christenson is originally from Florida.

"A six-year-old was telling me how to farm was trying to teach me how to take care of chickens and hogs," he said with a laugh. "And I had never seen a hog before in my life."

Christenson is joined by ensign Katherine Sylvester and Petty Officer 2nd Class Jakob Naylor on the weeklong trip. 

"Everyone has been very genuine, very kind, welcoming," Sylvester said. "Making sure that we felt comfortable here, even though this is our first time in Iowa, making sure that we felt welcome at home here."

The trio wants Iowans to know they carry a special place in their hearts.

"We're letting people and around here know that there are people in the military proud to represent their state," said Naylor. 

"The people of Iowa who want nothing more than just to live their lives go home and be with their families," said Christenson. "That matters a lot to me. This is the reason why we fight. The reason why because the people of Iowa are really good people."

Once the sailors set out on the USS Iowa, they say they people they meet and memories they make on this trip is what they'll carry with them during their missions.

"We're the submarine force for Iowa," said Sylvester. "You should know what we're doing for you. You should feel a sense of pride and connection with the people that are serving you. And that is important that we also understand that when we take on that name of USS Iowa, that we know what it means. And we have connection to the people whose name that we're representing."

WATCH | Families, friends welcome home Iowa soldiers just in time for Thanksgiving