USS Somerset to be christened later this month

By Vicki Rock Daily American

The christening ceremony for the future USS Somerset will be one of the last public ceremonies for the ship named in honor of America’s County.

“At a christening ceremony, the ship is officially given her name,” said Chris Johnson, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command. “The sponsor says, ‘I christen thee.’ It is a short, formal ceremony.”

Mary Jo Myers is the ship’s sponsor. She is the wife of retired Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She will break a bottle of champagne across the bow of the ship during the ceremony July 28 in New Orleans.

Patrick White, president of the Families of Flight 93, will be the featured speaker for the christening ceremony.

“The Flight 93 families are honored to participate in the christening event,” he said. “The USS Somerset will be the first to fight, like Flight 93’s crew members and passengers, and the first to be of aid to friends, like the Somerset community that has grown up around the crash site to support, honor and remember their legacy.” 

The ship’s two intended purposes — war and humanitarian relief — are reminiscent of the two faces of September 11, 2001.

“The passengers and crew of Flight 93 showed courage in fighting back against the terrorists,” he said. “The people of Somerset County showed their humanity by their response and their continued support of the Families of Flight 93 and the national memorial. We trust the crew of the future USS Somerset will be imbued with courage when needed to rise against our enemies and will have compassion for those who need their help in times of disaster.”

Metal from one of the two draglines that was near the Flight 93 crash site was used in the bow of the ship. So steel from Somerset County will cut the waves for the USS Somerset as she speeds to help those in need or to harm America’s enemies.

“The vessel as well embodies to the Families of Flight 93 an important sense of healing and of finding hope from the tragedy of that day,” White said.

Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk and his wife, Janet, are attending as the Navy secretary’s guests.

“We’re excited about the ship,” Vatavuk said. “I’m not speaking at this ceremony but will sit on the stage as a representative of the county.”

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