USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea (NNS) -- The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) celebrated its 11th birthday Aug. 15 while at sea for its final certification exercise.
The crew held a cake-cutting ceremony on the mess decks, and the ship's youngest and oldest Sailors, Aviation Support Equipmentman Airman Rebecca Kennedy and Culinary Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) A.G. Vistavilla, cut the cake.
"I feel it was an honor to have been chosen to represent the crew of the Bonhomme Richard," Kennedy said. "I am proud to have been lucky enough to have had my first set of orders to the ship. I have only been on board two weeks, and already I feel like I'm at home."
Bonhomme Richard was commissioned Aug. 15, 1998 in Pensacola, Fla. Construction began at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi July 25, 1994 with the ship's keel laid eight months later. On May 17, 1997 - Armed Forces Day - Bonhomme Richard was christened by the ship's sponsor, Joyce Murtha, wife U.S. Rep. John Murtha.
She made her first Western Pacific deployment in January 2000 and has deployed four times since then in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. During her second deployment, in late 2001 and 2002, "the Revolutionary Gator" launched combat sorties in support of Operation Anaconda.
In January 2005, Bonhomme Richard delivered more than 2.1 million pounds of humanitarian relief to Indonesian tsunami victims during Operation Unified Assistance.
Although the current Bonhomme Richard is only 11 years young, its namesake's legacy is as old as the nation itself.
That legacy began in 1779 with the first Bonhomme Richard - an oriental trading ship donated to the infant United States of America by the King of France and converted into a frigate. Originally named Duc de Duras, Capt. John Paul Jones renamed her "Bonhomme Richard", in honor of his patron Benjamin Franklin, serving as Ambassador to France at the time. Bonhomme Richard, French for "Good Man Richard" honors Franklin and his pen name, the author of "Poor Richard's Almanack" - a journal that urged common men to seek out roles in the public sphere and shape their own destinies.
On Sept. 23, 1779, Bonhomme Richard and her crew sailed into the history books. Under the command of Jones, Bonhomme Richard engaged the British fleet off the coast of Flamborough Head, England. She lashed out against the heavily armed HMS Serapis, igniting a fierce battle that lasted the entire night. Undergunned and severely damaged, Bonhomme Richard prevailed as the victor. It was during this battle that Jones shouted his immortal words "I have not yet begun to fight!"
The second Bonhomme Richard was an aircraft carrier that joined the fleet in November 1944 and immediately departed for operations in the Pacific Theater, seeing action there before the end of World War II. The carrier Bonhomme Richard saw action during both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. During their combat deployment in 1967, Bonhomme Richard launched a record 73 major air strikes and became the first "Ace Carrier" of the Vietnam conflict.
"This ship and her crew of Sailors and Marines continue to carry on the legacy and fighting spirit that Captain John Paul Jones and his crew set forth more than 200 years ago," said Capt. John Funk, Bonhomme Richard's commanding officer.
For more news from USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd6/.