Cumberland Times-News

Local News

March 2, 2014

‘SOMERSET, LET’S ROLL’

Ship honoring Flight 93 passengers, crew commissioned

PHILADELPHIA — With the motto “Virtus Per Adversa,” the USS Somerset officially joined the U.S. Naval fleet during a commissioning ceremony Saturday in Philadelphia at Penns Landing.

The motto, meaning “Courage through adversity,” was chosen to honor and represent the courage demonstrated by the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001. The USS Somerset is the final ship named in honor of events of 9/11 and now joins USS New York and USS Arlington in the fleet.

More than 1,300 area residents traveled to the port to witness the ceremony dedicated to the memory of the 40 men and women aboard Flight 93 and what many believe was the first battle against terrorism in the skies above Somerset County. More than 5,000 attended the commissioning ceremony.

Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk was among the dignitaries invited to participate in the ceremony that included the ship’s commanding officer Capt. Thomas Dearborn; U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, and Commandant of the Marines Corps, Gen. James F. Amos.

The USS Somerset was built by Huntington Ingalls Industries, the same ship builder that constructed the USS Arlington and USS New York.

Mike Petter, company CEO, said he and his employees considered the work on these ships to be an honor and privilege. He said all three ships are reminders of the victims and heroes of 9/11.

The USS Somerset is the newest and most technologically advanced amphibious transport dock to join the naval fleet. Construction on the LPD-25 Class expeditionary warship began in April 2009.

The Somerset is 684 feet in length and, once deployed, will house a crew of 360 sailors and three Marines, with a capability of accommodating 699 troops. The ship will also serve to provide needed humanitarian support throughout the world.

Tributes to the passengers of Flight 93 are prominently displayed throughout the inside and outside of the ship. Passenger Todd Beamer’s “Let’s Roll was the rallying cry of the passengers before they stormed the cockpit and is emblazoned on the hangar door.

More than 22 tons of steel from the crash site were incorporated into the construction of the bow stem and local maple lumber was used in several areas of the ship. Boroughs and municipalities throughout Somerset County had the opportunity to place signs specific to their community. Reminders of the men and women aboard Flight 93 can be found throughout the ship on flags, signs and even a handcrafted quilt.

The crest of the USS Somerset mirrors the shape of the Somerset County seal, featuring 40 stars in honor of the passengers, emblems seen on the Pennsylvania state seal and an image representing the Flight 93 National Memorial.

Gordon Felt, president of the Flight 93 Families, was among speakers and had the honor of presenting the ceremonial long-glass to the first watch of the crew. Felt, whose brother was aboard Flight 93, said the commissioning was another marker in the Flight 93 story.

Felt told the crew, “So much was given and lost. Heroism is not achieved, it is revealed and I hope their actions sustain and motivate you as you serve your country.”

“The USS Somerset is a tribute to the men and women who launched the first counter-attack in the war on terror, those 40 extraordinary individuals and the extraordinary people of Somerset County, this is also a tribute to you,” Shuster said.

Amos, the keynote speaker, told family members of Flight 93 to know that the memory of their loved ones would never be forgotten.

“The USS Somerset will serve as a reminder to their bravery and represent our commitment to security around the world, As she puts to sea, she will carry the spirit and determination that defines America,” the general said. “9/11 was our generation’s ‘day of infamy’ and reminded us the American spirit is deep and burning bright. The sight of the USS Somerset will strike fear in the hearts of our enemies as she takes her place in the U.S. Naval fleet.”

Following remarks by guests, the act of commissioning began with Dearborn assuming command and the setting of first watch. After crew members raced up the plank, the ship’s engine’s roared as Dearborn said, “man the ship and bringing my ship to life.” Commissioning ceremonies are more than three centuries old and have been a practice of the U.S. Navy since 1775.

The USS Somerset will be leaving Philadelphia to travel to San Diego, her home port, for final preparations for deployment in 2016.

“Through our service to the United States and as crew members of the USS Somerset, we will endeavor to honor the crew and passengers of Flight 93,” Dearborn said.

Dearborn concluded his remarks with a simple command, “Somerset, let’s roll.”

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