By Journalist 2nd Class Ed Flynn and Journalist Seaman Joe Burgess, NR Navy Information Bureau 101 New England Public
On a crisp fall morning in Newport, R.I., friends, family, veterans and special guests gathered to watch as USS Chafee (DDG 90), the Navy's newest warship, was formally commissioned honoring the late Sen. John H. Chafee of Rhode Island.
Chafee, a decorated Marine veteran of World War II and Korea, also served as Secretary of the Navy prior to being elected U.S. senator.
With the historic and now retired aircraft carriers USS Forrestal
(CVA 59) and USS Saratoga
(CV 60) in the background, more than 6,000 supporters braved the blustery winds off Narragansett Bay to witness the historic commissioning.
Speakers included U.S. Senators from Rhode Island Jack Reed and Lincoln Chafee, son of the ship's namesake. "Today is a proud day," said Reed. "This ship bears an even prouder name. Sen. Chafee helped make this a better Navy, country and world."
During the ceremony, invited guests were reminded of the commitment Sen. Chafee made to servicemen and women by ensuring their voice was heard at the highest levels of government. "Senator Chafee was a brave Marine," said Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Michael W. Hagee. "His legacy of patriotism, honor and courage are true examples for all of us."
Other dignitaries attending the commissioning ceremony included Rhode Island Governor Donald L. Carcieri and Zechariah Chafee, son of the namesake.
In a moving tribute near the end of the ceremony, World War II and Korean veterans that served with Chafee were recognized for their service to our country. One of those that knew Chafee and his duty to country was Mary Gray, a former U.S. Navy W.A.V.E.
"Sen. Chafee was a remarkable American," she noted. "It was great to see this man honored in such a way."
As Virginia Chafee, wife of the late senator, called "the ship to life," the thousands of guests cheered as the Navy band played an appropriate tune. "Anchors Aweigh" blared as the first watch charged aboard. With a roar from above, two U.S. Marine AV-8B Harrier II jets paid tribute to a late statesman and decorated veteran, now honored by the Navy's newest warship.
Chafee is the Navy's 40th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. Built at Bath Iron Works
in Maine, she is capable of multiple missions, including strike warfare with Tomahawk missiles, as well as anti-surface, anti-submarine, and anti-air defense operations.
Chafee can function as part of an aircraft carrier battle group, or as an independent unit, and while on deployment will include two SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters that also can perform various missions, such as search and rescue operations