November 09, 2009

A Visit Aboard the USS New York

If you've noticed a lot of activity on the New York waterfront this past week and wondered what was going on, here's the answer! Presently docked right next door to the Intrepid is the latest addition to the U.S. Navy's fleet of "LPD's" or "Landing Platform, Dock" amphibious support vessels. Ordinarily this would not be cause for much excitement, but this ship is special. Forged in the bow of the USS New York is 7.5 tons of steel salvaged from the World Trade Center towers. The ship's motto "Strength forged through sacrifice. Never Forget" is a compelling reminder of that terrible September day but with the promise that out of the rubble comes strength and fortitude.

Here are a few statistics. The USS New York (LPD 21) is 684 feet long and 105 feet wide which allows the ship to pass through the Panama Canal. It can travel at a speed of 22 knots or 24.2 miles per hour. The skipper, CDR Curt Jones, is in charge of a crew of 360 including 28 officers and the ship can transport up to 800 troops. The craft was built in the Northrup Grumman's Avondale Louisiana shipyard and christened there on March 1, 2008. It should be mentioned that when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, 1,200 shipyard workers continued production with minimal interruption.

The ship was commissioned here in New York on November 7th as a tribute to not only our superb military but also the brave men and women who lost their lives on 9/11. After all the pomp and circumstance the general public was invited to come on board and check out the bells and whistles. And come they did, myself included, to view this impressive vessel, salute our fine seamen and reflect once more on the terrors on that day and how precious our freedom is. Old and young, veterans and civilians, firemen, policemen, priests and just ordinary people like yours truly who thought this was too good an opportunity to pass by.

Visitors lined up at the gangplank and were greeted by some very welcoming sailors who were clearly proud of their ship and happy to show it off. It was very exciting to actually board a military vessel and have a close up look at the equipment they use every day. Tanks, humvees, two hovercraft landing craft, an Osprey tilt-rotor helicopter, various smaller choppers and a platoon of artillery were all on display and could be climbed into and around while personnel stood by to answer any questions. This is not a fighting ship, it is a support vessel and its capabilities were astonishing to a layperson like me. I was not only impressed with the machinery and the ship shape maintenance, I was also very moved by the numerous shrines to those who perished on September 11.

On this Veteran's Day I would like to take this opportunity to salute our fallen heroes and commend those who continue to fight for our liberty. If the young service men and women I met on board the USS New York are any indication, our future is in very good hands.

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