MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- Highlighting a trip to their namesake battlefield, USS Gettysburg (CG 64) Sailors will lead the Cemetery Ridge cannon barrage and hold a ceremony to return Civil War artifacts during the 152nd anniversary festivities in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1-4.
Nearly 20 Sailors from the Navy's Ticonderoga-class, guided-missile cruiser, homeported in Mayport, Florida, will also complete preservation projects on Little Round Top and in nearby cemeteries.
The Sailors will take with them myriad artifacts related to the Battle of Gettysburg which have been on loan to the ship since 1995. Originally presented to the ship to establish a greater bond between the borough of Gettysburg and the ship, the artifacts being returned include guns, bullets and battle swords, as well as artwork depicting key battles. During a brief ceremony, the Sailors will be entrusting the artifacts back to the Gettysburg Foundation for the next several years while the ship undergoes significant upgrades as part of the Navy's Cruiser Modernization Program.
"These artifacts serve as a daily reminder of the legacy that the ship honors and keeps alive in her ideals and achievements," said Lt. j.g. Zach Wardelman, the ship's safety officer and lead organizer of this year's namesake visit. "We are returning them with the knowledge that they will be well-preserved for the crew that brings USS Gettysburg back to sea in a few years."
When possible, the ship's leadership typically sends a contingent of its crew to take part in ceremonies commemorating the Battle of Gettysburg. This year, Sailors will participate in several events surrounding the 152nd anniversary of the battle, in addition to the formal transfer of the artifacts. Sailors will take part in multiple community service projects as well as the annual re-enactment of the battle, during which they will fire the opening cannon barrage.
"I am beyond excited to be part of the group traveling to Gettysburg this year," said Lt. Mike Mueller, a Pennsylvania native and assistant supply officer on board Gettysburg. "It's something I've been wanting to do ever since getting assigned to the ship. To be able to support and give back to a community in my home state is an amazing opportunity, as is getting to participate in some of the events commemorating such a crucial battle in our nation's history."
According to the ship's commanding officer, Capt. John Schmidt, due to the minimal manning that Gettysburg will have during its modernization period, this will likely be the last official visit by Gettysburg Sailors for the next few years.
"It's truly impossible to overstate the importance of the relationship that a ship like Gettysburg has with its heritage," Schmidt said. "We owe it to the people of Gettysburg, who are among those we protect, to maintain that connection throughout the ship's lifetime. Likewise, the heroic deeds and the memory of those who gave their lives so many years ago, provide our Sailors with ideals to follow throughout their time serving on board."
Over the next several years, the ship will undergo a structured modernization to ensure it reaches its projected 40-year service life. The Cruiser Modernization Program aims to improve the CG 47 Ticonderoga-class of ships by modernizing the computing and display infrastructure, along with the hull, mechanical and electrical systems. Weapons and sensor sets will be improved in order to upgrade their anti-submarine capabilities and add short range electro-optical systems that can monitor the ship's surroundings without the use of radar emissions. Routine machinery upgrades will also improve all areas of ship functionality.
For more news from Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/surflant/ .