Having a United States naval vessel named after someone is an extraordinary honor typically reserved for those who have contributed heavily to this nation or to the military. The Navy’s decision to name a new ship after former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shows the meaning of this tribute is quickly diminishing.
It is a tremendous honor to have a ship named after someone but under the current administration, the process has turned entirely political. This was once again made clear when Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced yesterday that the Navy’s new littoral combat ship (LCS 10) will be named the USS Gabrielle Giffords.
Giffords’ brief service in Congress was cut short when she was shot by a madman at a grocery store in her home district in Arizona. Six people were killed, 19 injured in the horrible event.
While the shooting was a tragedy, the fact is that Giffords did not particularly distinguish herself in Congress. She certainly was not known for any extraordinary contribution to the military.
The naming of a ship after her is a sad joke. There are thousands of more worthy names the Navy could have chosen – check the Honor Roll of those who have served and died in Iraq and Afghanistan for instance.
This is not the first questionable ship naming of a ship in recent years.
The USS John P. Murtha will carry the name of the congressman who did serve in the Marines. However, Murtha is best known for his time in Congress when he was oftentimes the subject of scandal and dubious dealings.
From Abscam to earmarks rewarding those who contributed to his political campaigns, his ethics were highly questionable. Further, he famously said Marines in Haditha “killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”
It was a tremendous slap in the face to the brave men and women serving in our nation’s armed forces. Veterans and active duty military were astonished and disgusted at the naming of a ship for this man.
In May 2011, the Navy announced it would name a ship after labor rights activist César Chávez. Many were outraged and could point to many other Mexican-Americans with military ties worthy of the honor including World War II Medal of Honor winner John Finn.
Further, ships from which the class the USNS César Chávez comes from had previously been named for great explorers and pioneers. Among the worthy names on these are the Lewis and Clark, the Alan Shepard, the Amelia Earhart and the Carl Brashear.
The naming of a ship after an activist was completely counter to tradition. Further, it was entirely a case of playing politics and catering to Hispanics and labor.
Certainly it is not unusual for ships to be named after political figures and it is oftentimes warranted.
The USS Carl Vinson’s namesake was a congressman from Georgia largely credited for the modernization of the Navy leading up to World War II. Another aircraft carrier bears the name of Senator John C. Stennis who served in office for more than 40 years and became known as the “Father of America’s Modern Navy”.
With the recent namings the Obama administration and particularly Secretary Mabus, has thrown a rich tradition out the window and taken what is an extraordinary honor and cheapened it with politics. It is no wonder that the military and our nation’s veterans regard them with disdain.
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