YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- Guided missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) held a birthday celebration in honor of Steelworker 2nd Class (Diver) Robert Stethem, the ship's namesake, on Nov. 16.
Stethem's steelworkers, family and friends, and Navy Seabees stationed on board Yokosuka Naval Base were invited to attend the command picnic in his honor.
"Having met Robbie's parents and brothers, I know that this is how they would want us to celebrate his life. I know his family would be here celebrating with us if they could," remarked Command Master Chief Robert Corkish.
The picnic began with a cake-cutting ceremony, presided by Stethem's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Paul Lyons.
"This event is very important to the steelworkers because it honors the ship's namesake - a petty officer who's legacy of honorable service and unflinching courage in the face of adversity serves as a source of pride and ethos for all of us," said Lyons. "On group runs, one Sailor always carries our battle flag with the ship's motto: steadfast and courageous. Robbie's birthday celebration reminds us all how important it is as a ship to honor his name."
Stethem's name and his courage are never far from the crew's mind.
"The crew is really proud of our namesake, and we do everything that we can to keep Robbie's legacy alive. His courage and dedication serves as our foundation - no hardship that we go through is comparable to what he suffered," said Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Rachel Fuelling.
Stethem was killed by Hezbollah terrorists who hijacked his plane shortly after TWA flight 847 took off in Greece. The terrorists forced the plane to land in Lebanon and when their demands were not met, began to assault passengers. The terrorists soon discovered that Robert was not only an American, but a U.S. Navy Sailor. Stethem was murdered by the hijackers after they tortured him for hours. Stethem refused to cry out or beg for mercy, sacrificing his life for the other hostages on the aircraft.
Stethem, commanded by Lyons, is an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer that operates out of Yokosuka, Japan, as part of the Navy's only permanently forward deployed naval forces, and serves with the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), the Navy's only forward deployed aircraft carrier.
For more news from USS Stethem, visit www.navy.mil/local/ddg63/.