PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. --
The Navy welcomed its newest warship, the USS Jason Dunham, during a commissioning ceremony at Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Nov. 13.
The 59th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer was named after Medal of Honor recipient, Cpl. Jason Dunham, the first Marine to be awarded the medal since Vietnam, after throwing himself on a grenade to save his fellow Marines in Iraq’s al Anbar Province, April 14, 2004.
“Names of U.S. ships are extremely important to us,“ said Robert O. Work, Under Secretary of the Navy. “We name them after presidents, battles and great states.”
“I know of no other navy on this planet who would honor the service and sacrifice of a young corporal of Marines who fell in battle by making him forever part of the U.S. Navy’s battle line,” said Work.
Over 4000 people poured into the seats next to the ship under the blue Florida sky. The Parris Island Marine band played, people cheered, clapped and also shed tears as they celebrated the commissioning. Children waved American flags and veterans from all over the country came together along with active duty military members and civilians.
The ship was decorated with red, white and blue on the outside, while filled with memories of Dunham on the inside.
His dress blue uniform rested on the quarterdeck while the gally, called Jason’s Dugout, was filled with New York Yankees memorabilia - his favorite team.
Dunham’s dogtags and kevlar were placed beneath the mast of the ship, symbolizing his protection over the crew while at sea.
“Rest assured when you sail, you sail with a guardian angel,” said Deborah Dunham, Jason’s mother and the ship’s sponsor.
The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, spoke of Dunham’s heroic actions.
“It was his selflessness that made him always want to help out the little guy, the underdog”, Amos said. “This is what endeared him to his men.”
He gave the crew words of encouragement minutes before they would board the ship as it was brought to life, “May his namesake inspire you to the pinnacle of naval excellence.”
This inspiration will be used when the USS Jason Dunham and her crew take on missions in the future.
“It takes a strong team to challenge today's threats that are going on, such as terrorists, violent extremists and pirates,” said Vice Adm. Daniel P. Holloway, commander, U.S. Second Fleet.
“You will have the opportunity to inject the spirit and instill the qualities of Cpl. Jason Dunham, as you face these future threats,” said Holloway.
At the end of the ceremony, the crowd rose to their feet and cheered as the crew ran on board after Jason’s mother shouted from the deck, “man our ship and bring her to life!”