Fundraising continues for USS Somerset commissioning ceremony; website offers reduced room rates

By Vicki Rock Daily American

People attending the commissioning ceremony of the USS Somerset on March 1 at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia can go through a website to reserve hotel rooms at reduced rates.

Tom Metzger, president of the Philadelphia Council of the Navy League of the United States, said the Navy League has set up a website. The commissioning is a naval ceremony that brings a ship into the fleet.

“If you don’t go through the website, you won’t get the discounted rate,” Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk said. “It is worth going through the website.”

Metzger anticipates close to 10,000 people attending from companies involved in the ship building and the public. Vatavuk said more than 300 people from Somerset County have signed up so far. Local people who are planning to attend must notify the committee by Nov. 23. They may email Janet Vatavuk at janetvatavuk@gmail.com or call her at 814-467-5137. Invitations will be mailed out. People must have an invitation to attend.

The commissioning will cost between $325,000 and $500,000, depending on additional events scheduled. The Navy doesn’t pay for the commissioning ceremony. Metzger declined to say how much has been raised to date.

“We’re right on track for where we should be now,” he said. “I’m always concerned; my concern will end when we get enough money. I’ll be able to sleep at night when we reach $325,000 — there are a lot of expenses for a commissioning.”

Although the total amount needed is at least $325,000, Vatavuk said Somerset County’s goal is $50,000. Bob Kirst, president of Global/SFC Valve Corp., Somerset, said he will match local donations up to $10,000.

People may donate for the commissioning through the website, send the check to: USS Somerset Commissioning Committee, c/o Somerset Trust Company, P.O. Box 777, Somerset, PA 15501, or drop them off at any branch office of Somerset Trust. That will enable the committee to keep track of donations for the Kirst matching funds. Metzger hopes the funds will be raised by January so final plans can be made.

The ship is named to honor the passengers and crew members of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed [as a result of the terrorist attacks] on September 11, 2001, in Stonycreek Township. The ship will join the two other Ingalls-built LPDs named in honor of the victims of September 11: USS New York (LPD 21) and USS Arlington (LPD 24).

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