CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (NNS) -- USS Constitution and her crew got underway for her annual July 4th turnaround cruise in Boston Harbor, July 4.
The cruise was Constitution's second of 2012 and one of the last major events of Boston Navy Week, June 28-July 5.
"There is simply no better way to celebrate Independence Day than being on board Constitution," said Cmdr. Matthew Bonner, Constitution's 72nd commanding officer. "And this year is made even more special by celebrating the commemoration of the War of 1812 and sailing with USCGC Eagle to honor the nation."
The ship got underway shortly after 11 a.m. with 499 guests in attendance. Many of them were winners of Constitution's 2012 lottery drawing. Chief of Naval Operations for Denmark Rear Adm. Finn Hansen and four of Constitution's former commanding officers were also aboard.
"The Fourth of July is all about history and heritage," said Sonar Technician (Submarine) 1st Class (SS) Mark Comeiro, a Boston native, and Constitution's officer of the deck for the underway. "As such, it couldn't be more appropriate for our ship to get underway today. This ship is very special to a lot of people from this city, state and country. I am so proud to serve aboard her."
At 11:45 a.m., retired Cmdr. Bob Gillen, Constitution's 59th commanding officer, and representatives of the Bellingham Bell company unveiled Constitution's new shipboard bell. The inscription on the bell commemorates the bicentennial of the War of 1812, a war in which Constitution won three major victories. It's also the fourth bell in the ship's 214-year history.
At noon, Constitution performed a 21-gun salute near Fort Independence on Castle Island. Fort Independence is a state park that served as a defense post for Boston Harbor at one time.
"It was a very moving experience to be aboard this ship on the Fourth of July," said Seamus Daly, one of Constitution's lottery winners. "The three salutes the Constitution performed and the flyover was simply fantastic."
At 12:20 p.m., Constitution passed amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) and rendered honors with a 19-gun salute, which culminated with a flyover demonstration by the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron Blue Angels.
Sailors performed a final 17-gun salute to the city of Boston near Coast Guard Station Boston, the former site of the Edmund Hartt Shipyard where Constitution was built. The shots honored the 16 states that comprised America when Constitution launched in 1797 and one in honor of the ship. She returned to her berth at approximately 1:30 p.m.
Additionally, Constitution's color guard detail will present the colors at the annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular at Boston's Hatch Shell at 8:30 p.m. tonight.
This is the sixth of eight Navy Weeks Constitution Sailors are scheduled to participate in throughout 2012, celebrating the bicentennial of the War of 1812. Boston Navy Week is being held in conjunction with Boston Harborfest, a festival that showcases the colonial and maritime heritage of Boston.
The primary purpose of Navy Week is to increase Navy awareness by presenting the Navy to Americans who live in cities that normally do not have a significant naval presence. Boston Navy Week will showcase the mission, capabilities and achievements of the U.S. Navy and provide residents the opportunity to meet Sailors firsthand.
Constitution is the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors per year. She defended the sea lanes against threat from 1797 to 1855, much like the mission of today's Navy. America's Navy: Keeping the sea free for more than 200 years.
Constitution's mission today is to offer community outreach and education about the ship's history.
For more information, visit www.history.navy.mil/ussconstitution or www.facebook.com/ussconstitutionofficial.
For more news from USS Constitution, visit www.navy.mil/local/constitution/.