Thousands of people gathered at Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia, to witness the
March 1 commissioning ceremony for the USS Somerset, the last of three troop
transports named in honor of 9/11 victims.
But for Pfc. Uriel Reyes Jr.,
a Marine who took part in the ceremony, the day marked more than just the chance
to take part in a historic event.
After the ship was brought to life with
its new crew, attention diverted to Reyes, who waited as Gen. James F. Amos, the
35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, walked over to the Marine detachment’s
senior enlisted advisor, 1st Sgt. Leon M. Banta.
Reyes, a Santa Ana,
Calif., native and school clerk for Headquarters and Support Company, 8th
Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, stood in his dress blues
and waited. The rank stitched to his sleeves would only be a part of his life
for a few, short more minutes.
“First Sgt. Banta told me the day prior
the commandant might promote me, and it made me really nervous,” said Reyes.
“That night when we went out on liberty, I didn’t have any fun because all I did
was practice my salute and make sure I was prepared for the promotion.”
small formation of Marines assembled near where Reyes was standing. He waited at
the position of attention as Banta began to read his promotion
The public slowly gathered around to watch as Banta started
reading, “to all who shall see these presents, greeting.”
civilians started to come over to watch and take pictures, I got stage fright,”
said Reyes, who joined the Marine Corps less than two years ago. “It wasn’t an
average promotion. The day was already big enough to me. The USS Somerset was
just commissioned. It got bigger to me when I was promoted right after … just
outside the ship.”
After Banta finished reading the promotion warrant,
Amos told Reyes to raise his right hand and repeat the oath of enlistment.
“I was really motivated because he promoted me,” said Reyes. “I felt
like I was re-enlisting again when the commandant told me to raise my right
To conclude the ceremony, the commandant leaned in and shook
Reyes’ hand and gave him his personal challenge coin.
“I’m always going
to carry the challenge coin he gave me to remember that day and the promotion
because I know it doesn’t happen to everybody,” said now Lance Cpl. Reyes. “Just
like the first sergeant told me, this is an opportunity of a
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