Saturday, June 04, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Sunday, June 05, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates is traveling.

Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn has no public or media events on his schedule.

Honoring Battle of Midway, Gold Star Families, USS Constitution Gets Underway

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Frank E. Neely, USS Constitution Public Affairs

CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (NNS) -- USS Constitution hosted approximately 200 members from Gold Star Families during an underway Battle of Midway commemoration from the ship's berth in Charlestown, Mass., June 3.

The ship honored Gold Star Families — families who lost loved ones in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom —and also honored the Navy's victory at Midway Island during World War II.

"I am excited that we are able to host several families in recognition of their fallen service members," said Cmdr. Tim Cooper, Constitution's 71st commanding officer. "Honoring those who sacrificed so much in defense of our nation is such an easy thing and one that my crew and I are privileged to do."

The ship got underway after morning colors, shortly after 8 a.m. Cmdr. Jonathan Smith, a Navy chaplain, next gave the invocation. Then USS Constitution Command Master Chief Roxanne Rhoades, and Rear Adm. Nevin Carr, Chief of Naval Research and Director, Test and Evaluation and Technology Requirements; commemorated the Battle of Midway by tossing a wreath into the ocean over Constitution's side.

Sailors then offered tours of the ship to all Gold Star Families and guests.

"My husband and I are big history buffs," said Alma Hart, member of Gold Star Families and resident of Bedford, Mass. "We were definitely excited about being invited and honored that the families of the fallen were thought about. It's important too; the families get together and bond. My son, John, also loved sailing. He would have loved this opportunity."

Hart's son was Pfc. John Hart of 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, U.S. Army. He was killed when his patrol was ambushed with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire in Taza, Iraq, Oct. 18, 2003. He was also the recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart Awards.

"Yes, it was a great honor to welcome them [Gold Star Families] aboard," said Aviation Electrician's Mate Airman Matthew DeAngelo, who helped coordinate the Gold Star Families' visit. "No one can ever fully repay these families for what they've had to go through. I can only hope this gesture of appreciation by getting underway with us lets them know we're aware of their losses, and we want to honor them and their sacrifices."

Finally, Constitution exchanged 21-gun salutes with Fort Independence on Castle Island. Fort Independence is a state park that served as a defense post for Boston Harbor at one time.

Constitution is the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors a year.