Thank you, XO for that kind introduction.
Sen. Ernst, Adm. Richardson, Mrs. Winnefeld, Mayor Pro Tempore Don Moore and Sioux City Council members, Annapolis Mayor Buckley, Vice Adm. Carter, Rear Adm. Thorp, Siouxland Chamber of Commerce President Chris McGowan, Cmdr. Malone and Cmdr. O’Brien, officers and crew of the soon to be United States Ship Sioux City.
The great citizens of Sioux City and the broader Siouxland region; as well as our Annapolis hosts, distinguished guests, families and friends:
Good morning, and welcome to Annapolis!
On behalf of the 76th Secretary of our Navy, Richard V. Spencer, I am privileged to welcome you to this historic event, the commissioning of a major warship at the United States Naval Academy.
This beautiful piece of American history, known as the “Yard,” is where naval service began for me, and for so many others who are with us today.
It is a perfect setting to renew the cycle of service once more, when soon, a new, courageous, ready and able crew will sally forth to all corners of the world, defending our nation from those who would threaten us, and deterring all others from even thinking about it.
This bold new crew will ensure freedom of navigation and freedom of trade for our citizenry, and offer ready partnership for all who believe in their hearts, as we have since the American Revolution; that individual liberty is at the core of human progress and prosperity – and that it must be protected by people willing to fight for it.
This ship, and this crew, will go from this place, just as so many of us have, to serve the nation in places far, far away from here.
During that process, they will build relationships with partners and allies who have a common goal in mind: Peace.
As I look back on my own career, I can anticipate that journey for Sioux City, and I am excited by it because you never know where those relationships will lead.
In my own case, through the Navy, I have connected with, and developed friendships, with Sailors from countries all over the world. It is one of the great satisfactions of service in the United States Navy.
And today, it is brought to light in a particularly personal way for me as one of my flight school classmates from Pensacola, a former helicopter pilot like me, and former Italian naval officer by the name of Dario Deste, is president and CEO of Fincantieri USA, who I know wishes he could witness this historic event in person.
As you all know, the great men and women of Fincantieri in Wisconsin built this fine ship and delivered it to the United States Navy.
Serving together again as we commission her into service is a scenario that neither Dario nor I would have likely imagined in 1984 in Pensacola, but it is a vivid example of how service binds us together across national boundaries – and how it must continue to do so to maintain mutual commitments to peace and security.
It is truly a great day to be an American, and a great day to celebrate a great American hometown, while being hosted by another one. To the many Siouxlanders who have traveled from the Midwest, over 500 of you, thank you so much for being here and for representing your city and your love and pride for this ship and its crew.
With the help of Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, a native of the City of Annapolis, and the sponsoring spirit of Mrs. Mary Winnefeld, a true servant leader who has led our joint forces and families for decades along with her husband, Sandy, the people of Sioux City have made this commissioning event a model for how to do it right.
As some of you may know, I recently had the honor of announcing that one of our future LCS ships would be named for my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.
And I know Sandy Winnefeld was once the commanding officer of the last USS Cleveland, another personal reminder of the many deep connections that reach across the years and throughout our Navy.
In fact, there is a small delegation here from Cleveland this weekend because they wanted to be here to see how to commission a ship with all the class and dignity, and fun, that it deserves.
Sioux City has truly stepped up as a community and have demonstrated what it means to be the “proud parents” of this ship.
Just like today, the people of Siouxland have come together on countless occasions: in times of plenty, as their indomitable role as one of the nation’s leading providers of beef and pork, feeding Americans and the world.
They also lead the way in coming together in times of tragedy, as in the horrible crash landing of Flight 232 in July 1989; when Sioux Cityians showed the world how their expert care and compassion saved 185 people from an aircraft that lost primary, secondary, and tertiary means of flight control.
There is a timeless picture, placed in Dahlgren Hall today, which I know many of you have seen, for it was published in just about every national and world newspaper the next day.
In that famous photo, Iowa Air National Guard A-7 pilot Denny Nielsen is carrying a child out of the wreckage.
When asked about it, he spoke for all of Siouxland when he said, “God saved the child. I just carried him.”
Just like that day in 1989, when we launch this ship into the deeper blue waters of the Chesapeake and the farther beyond, her crew will always know who is carrying them – who is with them every nautical mile and to every corner of the ocean, whether in peace or war.
Finally, let me say something I personally know about the people of Iowa, and why they are such a fitting citizenry to have their name carried by this ship.
In 1950, my mother and grandfather escaped war ravaged Eastern Europe for the promise of a new life in the United States.
They waited for sponsorship for several years, and when it finally came, it came from a family and a Lutheran Church in the great state of Iowa, in the small city of Waverly, some 200 miles east of Sioux City.
They came here with essentially nothing, but were embraced by many Iowans who gave them respect and dignity, helped them earn their citizenship;
But more importantly, helped them earn a future for themselves – and ultimately a future for me and my own family. I am forever indebted to Iowans for this act of selfless service to others.
Just as Iowans reached across a vast ocean to embrace refugees from World War II like my mother, the USS Sioux City will carry the spirit of Siouxland, and of Iowa, far beyond the banks of this river to people all over the world. In her they will see the strength and goodwill of this nation.
They will see what we see embodied every day in the warm, welcoming and gracious spirit of Iowans:
A spirit that opened its arms for my mother, and inspires the rest of us to serve others, and to serve causes greater than ourselves.
Thank you for being here today, may God bless the people of Sioux City Iowa and the magnificent crew that will breathe life into this ship. We all know that this crew and the citizens of Sioux City will never, ever give up the ship!
May God continue to bless the United States Navy and the Sailors and Marines who go into harm’s way every day to keep us safe and free.
Go Navy. Go Sioux City. And of course, as always, beat Army. Thank you very much.