AVONDALE, La. (NNS) -- The Navy's newest amphibious tranport dock was christened "New York" March 1, at the Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding New Orleans Shipyard at Avondale, La.
With seven-and-a-half tons of steel recovered from New York City's World Trade Center forged into its bow stem and hundreds of New York City first responders in attendance for the ceremony, the ship's motto "Strength forged through sacrifice. Never Forget," was heard loud and clear.
An array of speakers were on hand for the christening, including the Honorable Gordon England, Deputy Secretary of Defense. England spoke about the naval tradition of christenings and the naming of ships.
"The names are important," he said. "They come from battles, or symbols, or communities, and they serve as reminders of the sacrifices of Americans past and present. Each has a legacy, and as 'New York' will for the Sailors and Marines that will serve upon it, each is a source of inspiration."
England's connection to what will be the Navy's fifth amphibious transport dock of the San Antonio class is more than just serving as a speaker at its christening.
On Sept. 7, 2002, while serving as Secretary of the Navy, England formally announced that LPD 21 would be named New York from the decks of USS Intrepid, a refurbished aircraft carrier, which serves as a museum ship, and is moored in New York Harbor.
More than five years later, England's enthusiasm for New York hasn't waned.
"This is a special ship," said England. "Ships' names are messages and while we know fellow citizens will not forget Sept. 11 and New York City, we'll be sure to bring this message when we bring the fight to the enemy."
England's wife Dotty served as the ship's sponsor. While her husband served as the 72nd and 73rd secretary of the Navy, she was a strong advocate of Navy and Marine Corps families with a special dedication to their housing, medical care and other support activities. Among many involvements with New York, Dotty participated in the ceremonial pouring of World Trade Center-salvaged steel in nearby Amite, La., in 2004.
While a small crew had already been assigned to New York's ship's company, the bulk of the crew is scheduled to report for duty in the fall. The ship is scheduled to be commissioned in September 2009 and will be homeported in Norfolk.
Ron Parker, a retired New York City firefighter, was one of many New York City first responders on hand for the ceremony.
Parker served with Brooklyn, N.Y. Ladder Company 148 on Sept. 11, 2001, and remained at the World Trade Center wreckage site almost around-the-clock for more than four months after the attack while he helped recover the remains of 45 of his fellow fire fighters, along with countless others. In the shadows of the 25,000-ton vessel New York, Parker personally christened the ship with a perspective that may define the spirit of the amphibious transport dock's legacy.
"Embedded in the core of this mighty ship," he said, "are the souls of mighty heroes, never to be forgotten."
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