On a cold and sunny morning at Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia, approximately 100 Marines with 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force fought off the winter chill as they supported the commissioning ceremony of the USS Somerset March 1.
The San Antonio-class amphibious troop transport weighs approximately 24,900 tons fully loaded. The ship’s crew consists of 385 officers and enlisted sailors, who support up to 800 troops inside the ship’s hold.
Thousands of people came from all over the country to witness the historical commissioning of the third and final troop transport built with metal salvaged after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in honor of those victims.
In 2008, steel from equipment used near the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 was melted down and transformed into parts for the transport.
The commissioning brought together the city of Philadelphia, sailors, Marines and family members of the Flight 93 passengers.
The event symbolized an important landmark in the ship’s life, completing the sequence from christening and launching to full status as a ship of the United States Navy.
“It’s an honor to be here in the city of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, with you today. It’s a particularly meaningful day for the Navy and our Marine Corps team,” said Gen. James F. Amos, the 35th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps. “Make no mistake, this vessel, along with the other San Antonio Class amphibious ships, represent America’s commitment to security throughout the world. Somerset and the Marines and sailors she will carry will add mightily to the quiver of American diplomacy.”
The Somerset memorializes the heroic actions of Flight 93’s passengers and crew. Four al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked the plane on September 11, 2001. The plane crashed in Stonycreek Township, Penn., in Somerset County, Penn., during an attempt by several passengers to regain control.
Somerset sailors and Marines are honored to represent the passengers and crew members of Flight 93. Every sailor will continue, through USS Somerset’s service to her nation, to protect and display the courage and adversity of the 40 souls who lost their life during that unforgettable day.
In recognition of those passengers, the ship’s motto is “Virtus Per Adversa” meaning “Courage Through Adversity.”
“Those first responders [are] dedicated to telling the story of the 40 unique individuals and the heroic actions that shaped the ends of their lives and the future they left behind,” said Gordon Felt, the representative of the families of United Flight 93. “Some of you are here today because you resemble the [passengers], fierce advocates committed to preserving the memory and message of our loved ones in Harrisburg and Washington D.C. Some of you are here to serve our country, by serving in the Navy and the Marines. Joined by those are people committing their lives to building this ship that established our nations might across the globe.”
The 2nd MLG hand selected Marines to travel to the Somerset and represent the ties between the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps.
“The Marines are here at the commissioning ceremony to represent our bonds we have had for several years throughout the Marine Corps in the Navy traditions,” said 1st Sgt. Leon M. Banta, the company first sergeant for Engineer Support Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd MLG. “We support [the Navy] and they support us, and it’s one of those traditions that we have carried on forever.”
During the ceremony, the Marines appeared in their ceremonial uniform and stood in tribute before the Navy’s new ship.
“[They] performed flawlessly, the Marines stood there stone-faced as we Marines do … no movement,” said Banta, an Oil City, Penn., native. “They have had outstanding bearing and professionalism across the board and that’s how it’s been since we have stepped on this ship.”
Not only were the Marines selected to perform a tremendous honor, non-commissioned officers from 2nd MLG were hand selected to form a security detail for the distinguished guests, such as the Pennsylvania’s Senator Pat Toomey, members of the House of Representatives, families of the passengers, and other honored visitors.
“It’s very humbling, and it’s truly an honor to pay tribute to average every-day Americans who found themselves in an extraordinary situation and selflessly gave themselves for the greater good.” said Maj. Shawn D. Tyson, a Roseburg, Ore., native, and the executive officer for 2nd Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 25, 2nd MLG. “I’ve said it many times and I truly believe it, these individuals are truly heroes and we absolutely cannot forget them. The biggest thing for me is that [the Marines] understand we do live in a volatile world, and we must continue to prepare to defend our nation and our way of life. The moment we lose sight of that, something far worse than 9/11 can harm our people.”
Once the dedicating speeches were made to the Flight 93 family members, distinguished guests and crew of USS Somerset, Mary Jo Myers, the ship’s sponsor and the wife of Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the 15th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took the podium.
She singled out the family members of Flight 93, asking them to stand. Thousands of people applauded as they rose among the crowd.
To conclude the ceremony, Myers then leaned into the microphone and said, “To the officers and crew of the USS Somerset, man this ship and bring her to life.”
The service members proceeded to board the Somerset during the playing of ‘Anchors Aweigh’ and 'The Marine Corps Hymn,' marking the ship’s entry into active service.
“It was literally as if America was holding hands today,” said Banta, commenting on the wide range of people in attendance. “It was a great tribute and great honor to get everyone together and see how much support the military really does have.”
Read more: http://www.dvidshub.net/news/121439/last-line-2nd-mlg-marines-take-part-commissioning-post-9-11-troop-transport#.Uxcpg6S6omU#ixzz2v5zhToWu