GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- Recruit Training Command (RTC) held a dedication ceremony in the USS Triton recruit barracks here May 17 welcoming a new quarterdeck fixture, the ship's bell, that served on two submarines named Triton.
"It has brought a lot of closure," said 95-year-old Elna McKenzie Roop, wife of Torpedoman 1st Class Lloyd McKenzie, who went down on USS Triton (SS 201) in World War II. "The father of my two oldest children was lost with the first Triton."
The ceremony honored veterans and families from both Tritons (SS 201 and SSN 586), which served during World War II and the Cold War, respectively. The ship's bell, which now resides on the quarterdeck of the Triton at RTC, was used in both submarines, prior to the loss of SS 201 during World War II and during the decommissioning of SSN 586 in 1969.
The ceremony featured a former Triton Commanding Officer, retired Capt. Robert Rawlins, and a former Chief of the Boat, retired Master Chief Harold Weston, along with Capt. Steven Bethke, commanding officer of RTC. Retired Rear Adm. Peter Chabot, a former USS Triton (SSN 586) crewemember and Rear Adm. David Steindl, commander of Naval Service Training Command, were also in attendance.
"It's really an emotional experience for all of us," Rawlins said. "I think for the families, very emotional. And to have a barracks named after the Triton, it's really wonderful. I spent 25 years in the submarine force, in one job or another. I really appreciate everything that's going on here."
Steindl said the bell was a bridge between past Sailors and the more than 37,000 recruits who graduate from RTC each year, many who will be berthed in the Triton barracks.
"It was a wonderful ceremony," said Steindl. "I was so pleased to be able to welcome the Triton bell home, and to connect her with the sailors of future generations."
The ship's bell had been missing for 43 years, but was discovered by the teenaged-grandson of a Triton crewmember. He stumbled upon the mystery online and identified the bell as the one his grandfather had on display in his living room. It then took the efforts of veterans and families from both Tritons to get the grandfather to agree to donate the bell to RTC and the quarterdeck of the USS Triton recruit barracks. With the help of Lt. Mike Keppen, officer in charge of the USS Midway Ceremonial Drill Hall and master of ceremony at the Triton bell dedication, planning for the May 17 ceremony was accomplished.
"As I read and learned more about this story and the families involved, I said I'm going to invest my time, my energy and my heart into this, because of what the families have done over 43 years of trying to find the bell," Keppen said. "In honor of the Triton crew on both hulls: let's do it right. With the help of the staff as we got into the planning, it was the story and the dedication that Jeanine Allen had, going through the national archives and the length of time to find the bell."
Allen, daughter of TM1 McKenzie and Roop, worked tirelessly for years in her efforts to locate the ship's bell - and somehow find the connection to the father she lost decades ago. Allen passed away in March, but knew the bell had been found. Her family said they felt her presence and pride at the ceremony.
"I just think it's a tremendous coming together of several things," Chabot said. "One, which is service in World War II. The sacrifice and achievement of the submarine force, yes, but also the Navy as a whole during World War II. I served through the Cold War, so you have the Triton of my era. Now today, you have the future that can see all of this, and hopefully some of them will stand back and reflect on the tradition, the values, and the service that we expect them to live up to."
Following the dedication ceremony McKenzie Roop stepped up to toll the bell ending 43 years of searching.
Recruit Training Command, Naval Station Great Lakes transforms more than 37,000 civilian recruits into basically trained sailors annually, with around 7,000 of those calling the USS Triton barracks home while at boot camp.
For more information about RTC, visit http://www.bootcamp.navy.mil/.
For more news from Naval Service Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/greatlakes/.