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Kearsarge Celebrates African American Contributions to Navy, Nation

19 February 2021

From USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Public Affairs Office

The diversity committee aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) hosted a Black History Month celebration for the crew Feb. 16, 2021.

NORFOLK—The diversity committee aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) hosted a Black History Month celebration for the crew Feb. 16, 2021.

While providing opening remarks, Capt. Neil Koprowski, commanding officer of Kearsarge, lauded the contributions of African Americas to our nation and emphasized the importance of embracing diversity.

“This celebration recognizes black Americans and their amazing contributions to the United States, specifically the Armed Forces,” he said. “To celebrate a culture and a heritage, that makes us the incredible fighting force that we are.”

This year’s theme for Black History Month is “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.”

“What a perfect theme,” said Koprowski. “The greatness of America can be measured by the collective contributions of its citizens, both past and present. Our future will be measured by our ability to uphold and instill in others our most valuable assets, shared culture, history, knowledge, and a sense of community. Taking pride in accomplishments and achievements brings endless possibilities today, and boosts the capabilities in the future.”

The guest speaker for the event was Senior Chief Yeoman Tyrone Mason who has been serving in the Navy for 21 years.  His remarks highlighted the progress he has personally seen and experienced during his two decades of service.

“Just recently our country has witnessed the selection of the first African American leader of the Department of Defense,” said Mason. “The Honorable Lloyd Austin, but many say the highest honor in the U.S. Navy is to have a ship receive your namesake.”

Mason then detailed ships right here at Naval Station Norfolk bearing the namesakes of African American’s who earned their place in our Navy’s history. Ships such as the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) and USS Gravely (107) – just to name a few.

Oscar Austin was named after African America Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Oscar Austin who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War and Gravely was named after Vice Adm. Samuel Gravely who was the first African America to command a U.S. Navy ship, become a fleet commander, and flag officer.

Mason also paralleled the many naval innovations by African Americans that have furthered the Navy’s capability such as Elijah McCoy’s automatic lubricator, which was widely used in steam engine trains and ships.

Following Mason’s remarks, Kearsarge Sailors took turns standing up and reading aloud the stories of African Americans who helped pave the way to racial equality in America. 

“Please remember that observing Black History Month is not pitting an ‘us against them,’ mindset,” said Mason. “Just an opportunity for recognition of the contributions African Americans have made in the United States despite the sacrifice many of our ancestors had to overcome. And though we may have further to go, don’t forget how far we’ve come.” 

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