The crew of USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) with USS The Sullivans Foundation and the people of Staten Island celebrated the 10th anniversary of the shipâ€™s commissioning June 16 at the pier where the ship was commissioned.
The USS The Sullivans Foundation, a non-profit organization established to support the crew and ship, hosted the ceremony and following reception as a way to strengthen the tie between the people of Staten Island and the crew and ship.
â€œTen years ago there were 7,000 people here on this pier to celebrate this great ship
,â€ said Nancy Pouch, a member of USS The Sullivans Foundation. â€œIt was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between the ship and the people of Staten Island.â€
Pouch described the support the foundation has given the ship since its commissioning including donations to the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Fund and a scholarship fund for family members. Many of the foundationâ€™s members were part of the commissioning committee and have followed the shipâ€™s progress for the past 10 years.
â€œI developed a great bond with the ship as part of the original commissioning committee,â€ said H. Peter Schorr, USS The Sullivans Foundation treasurer and coordinator for the ceremony.
Schorr was particularly impressed by the retirement ceremony held prior
to the anniversary celebration for Capt. Gerard D. Roncolato, The Sullivans commanding officer during
the time of the shipâ€™s commissioning.
During the anniversary ceremony, Roncolato described April 19, 1997, the day the ship was commissioned as blustery and cold in Staten Island.
â€œThe crew believed that they were entrusted with a sacred honor,â€ said Roncolato. â€œA large part of what makes this ship special is the people of Staten Island that opened their hearts and doors to USS The Sullivans.â€
Named for the five Sullivan brothers who perished aboard USS Juneau (CL 52) in November 1942, the ship is the second to carry the name. USS The Sullivans (DD 537) was commissioned in 1943 as a reminder of the commitment and self-sacrifice of an average American family.
The shipâ€™s sponsor, Kelly Sullivan Loughren, the granddaughter of Albert Sullivan, one of the five brothers for which the ship is named, attended the ceremony and spoke to the crowd.
â€œThe stories Iâ€™ve heard as I grew up a Sullivan made me understand how patriotic my family is,â€ said Loughren. â€œAs I walk around the ship I can tell how much the crew loves it and believes in what they are doing.â€
â€œI was a senior in high school when the Navy asked me if I wanted to sponsor a ship. I had no idea what an honor it was. When people ask me where in the world I would wish to be at the moment, it is always aboard this ship. It is my favorite place to be and the smell inside is my favorite smell in the world,â€ said Loughren.
The public attending the ceremony sat in chairs on the pier facing The Sullivans. Behind them Intrepid, the former U.S. aircraft carrier now a museum normally berthed in Manhattan, was moored to the pier while undergoing renovations. Rep. Vito Fossella (N.Y. District 13) commented on the story of USS The Sullivans (DD 537) escorting the stricken USS Intrepid
to Majuro for repairs and described the irony of sitting between the second USS The Sullivans and Intrepid now years later.
â€œThis is a day we honor what this country is all about, the young people that have fallen in the current war as well as all of those who have gone before them,â€ said Fossella. â€œThank God we have young men and women that are willing to stand up and volunteer because they believe in what this country stands for.â€
Cmdr. Anthony Parisi, The Sullivansâ€™ commanding officer, described for the attendees the shipâ€™s history over the past 10 years and focused on their motto, â€œWe stick together.â€
â€œThe motto was handed down by crew members from the previous USS The Sullivans which they took from the five brothers,â€ said Parisi. â€œWe wear it on our ball caps and in our hearts. It is a saying that rings true in any language and during our recent deployment to the Mediterranean Sea it became a constant theme with the coalition nations to emphasize the unity that we need to fight this newest threat to our nation and the world.â€
When The Sullivans was commissioned it was blessed by Loughren and Roncolato with the words, â€œMay the luck of the Irish be with you and the crew.â€ The Irish heritage and the memory of the Sullivan brothers are as present in the everyday life of the crew as it was the day the ship was commissioned.
â€œThe heritage of the ship and the fact that Kelly [Loughren] comes back and keeps the Sullivan brothersâ€™ legacy alive is wonderful,â€ said Chief Quartermaster (SW) James Oritz, a plank owner and now stationed aboard The Sullivans for a second tour. â€œSeeing that Staten Island keeps supporting us and wanting us to come back is a good feeling.â€
By Lt. Lesley Lykins, Navy Office of Information, East Public Affairs
The Sullivans, based in Mayport, Fla., returned May 30 from a six-month deployment in the Mediterranean Sea supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.