BALTIMORE (NNS) -- Sailors from Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) visited the ship's namesake in Baltimore, March 2, to participate in a flag changing ceremony and to tour the historic fort.
The visit precedes the ship's visit to Baltimore for the Commemoration of the War of 1812, in June 2012.
Operations Specialist Seaman Joshua Powers, from Baltimore, is one of the 15 Sailors who made the drive to Fort McHenry.
"Being from Baltimore, it feels amazing coming back here," said Powers. "From my fifth grade field trips here, to now taking part in something I never thought I'd be part of."
It took all 15 Sailors to raise the massive garrison flag which features 15 stars and 15 stripes. The flag serves as a symbol of unity and remembrance for the battle that took place Sept. 13-14, 1814, when British forces attacked Fort McHenry. The failed bombardment and sight of the American flag inspired Francis Scott Key to compose "The Star-Spangled Banner."
"I've never seen a flag that big in my life" said Ship's Serviceman 1st Class Anthony Udell, who is also native to the Baltimore area.
The Sailors toured the fort to gain a better understanding of the history behind Fort McHenry and the historic battle. The visit also provided the Sailors with a new perspective and appreciation for being named after a historic fort.
"I feel honored to be here today; like I'm part of something special," said Hospital Corpsman Durell Hill. "It clarifies a lot about where our name comes from."
Lt. Kevin Johnson, USS Fort McHenry chaplain, said the visit was a very important.
"When we don't remember where we've been, we can't know where we're going," said Johnson.
As part of the visit, the Sailors also toured the park and explored the new visitor's center. Some of the Sailors were fascinated to learn that not only did "The Star Spangled Banner" come to life following the battle that took place there, but that it actually has four verses, and did not become the official National Anthem until 1931. Fort McHenry is one of two places in the United States where the American flag is flown at all times, day or night, regardless of the weather.
USS Fort McHenry is home ported in Norfolk, Va.
For more news from Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/surflant/.