SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (NNS) -- Fifty Sailors from USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) attended the celebration of former President Ronald Reagan's 99th birthday Feb. 6 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif.
The ceremony paid tribute to the life and accomplishments of the late president with a 21-gun salute by the Marine Corps Honor Guard from Camp Pendelton and a wreath laying by Capt. K.J. Norton, Ronald Reagan's commanding officer, and Ship's Serviceman 1st Class (SW/AW) Angel Escribano, Ronald Reagan's Sailor of the year.
"All of us on board USS Ronald Reagan take immense pride in being part of the president's living legacy," said Norton. "We're all honored to be here today to celebrate his memory."
"He gave me the image of the model of all that a leader could be," remarked former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole, the secretary of transportation under Reagan. "He was determined and kind in that very American combination. He had a spine of steel and a heart of gold and we loved him for both."
Ronald Reagan Sailors felt honored to participate in the birthday ceremony of their ship's namesake.
"Being able to lay the wreath on Ronald Reagan's tomb was a surreal moment for me," said Escribano. "He was a great man who accomplished so much. Strong leaders are few and far between, and it's only fitting we pay tribute to him."
Melissa Giller, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library director of communications, said it was a fitting tribute having Sailors from Reagan's namesake ship present at the ceremony.
"It meant a lot to the library foundation to have Sailors from USS Ronald Reagan present at this ceremony," said Giller. "They exemplify 'Peace Through Strength.'"
The motto "Peace Through Strength" was a recurring theme throughout President Reagan's presidency.
"Ronald Reagan commissioned more aircraft carriers than any other president," said Escribano. "He made a larger contribution to America's fighting force and global presence than perhaps any of his predecessors. Our Navy owes him a debt of gratitude, and we're happy to live up to that."
At the culmination of the ceremony, Norton and Escribano laid a wreath on President Reagan's tomb. Escribano said there was a positive undertone to that somber moment as he thought of the life and presidency of America's 40th president.
"Ronald Reagan's life and achievements shouldn't fall by the wayside," said Escribano. "It's our duty to help preserve his memory any way we can."
For more news from USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) - Ronald Reagan Strike Group, visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.