USS Somerset to be commissioned in late-winter ceremony

By Vicki Rock Daily American

The Navy announced on Monday that the USS Somerset will be commissioned March 1 at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia.

Spokeswoman Alicia Aadnesen made the announcement in an email.

Gordon Felt, president of the Families of Flight 93, was pleased that the secretary of the Navy was able to announce the date for the commissioning.

“So many from the Families (of Flight 93) want to be there as a tribute to their loved ones,” he said in a telephone interview. “It will be great to have it in Philadelphia because it is in Pennsylvania, the same state as the memorial.”

Capt. Thomas Dearborn, commanding officer of the USS Somerset, and six crew members will attend the groundbreaking for the Flight 93 National Memorial visitor center and the education center at 3 p.m. today and will participate in Wednesday’s anniversary commemoration, Felt said.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., was one of several legislators who worked to have the commissioning held in Pennsylvania.

“Our Commonwealth was deeply and uniquely impacted by the tragic events of September 11th,” he wrote in an email. “The USS Somerset is named to honor the courageous passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Through the actions of these brave individuals, they prevented terrorist hijackers from reaching their target destination. We have worked to ensure that this sacrifice will never be forgotten. I’m pleased that our state will have the honor of having this ship begin its service in the Port of Philadelphia.”

Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk is glad that the commissioning date has been set.

“I would really like to see some local people participate, possibly a regional band made up of all the high schools,” Vatavuk said in a telephone interview. “This will be a great day for the families of those who were on the flight — to honor their loved ones.”

The commissioner said that the time of the commissioning was not announced, but he attended the commissioning of the USS Arlington and that ceremony was held at noon. The Somerset County Chamber of Commerce is considering organizing buses so local people can more easily make the trip, but details have not been provided.

The USS Somerset was christened on July 28. The 684-foot-long vessel was named in honor of the passengers and crew of United Flight 93, which crashed on September 11, 2001, in Stonycreek Township. The $1.2 billion ship is serviced by a crew of 350 and can carry up to 800 Marines into assault operations. It has a flight deck that can handle helicopters and the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. The ship will be based in San Diego, Calif.

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