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By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 1, 2008 - On what was described as a "fine Navy, Marine Corps day," in New Orleans, Defense Department officials, servicemembers and distinguished guests gathered today to christen a tangible symbol of America's mettle.
"This is a special day for a magnificent ship that has a special place in the heart of every American," Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England said during the christening ceremony for USS New York.
Everyone in the country, he said, has felt a special connection with New York since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "On the day the towers fell, all Americans were New Yorkers," he said. It also is true then, England said, that the USS New York, with its bow stem forged from nearly 8 tons of steel salvaged from the wreckage of the World Trade Center, is America's ship.
Sailing under the motto, "Never Forget," the ship and its sister ships, the Arlington and Somerset, are living tributes to those killed on Sept. 11, England said. By virtue of its name, he added, New York also carries with it a reminder of the U.S. commitment to freedom.
According to naval tradition, the christening of a ship conveys the spirit of the vessel's namesake. In this case, the christening may have been a formality, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead said.
"This timeless tradition that is essential in imbuing the spirit of a namesake into a ship may not even be required, because this ship is already imbued," the admiral said. "It is forged. It is instilled with that identity already.
"(USS) New York will forever conjure the valor, the sacrifice, the heroism and the tenacity of that city, that state, and our nation," he added.
The christening also is said to convey the spirit of the ship's sponsor -- in this case, Dotty H. England, wife of the deputy defense secretary. The tradition goes a step further with the New York, she said.
"With this unique ship, we are also going to give it the spirit of the 9/11 heroes, the spirit of New Yorkers and the indomitable spirit of Americans," she said. "We will keep that same spirit in our hearts and minds forever."
The fifth San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock will transport Marines and their equipment. It also will support amphibious assault, special operations and expeditionary missions.
Though the USS New York has yet to welcome its first crew aboard, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps began writing its storied legacy today.