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Independent’s Day: The USS Arlington

By Jason Howell - ARLNow.com

Wednesday - 2/6/2013, 3:45pm  ET

Independent’s Day is a weekly opinion column by published on Wednesdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Independent Congressional candidate Jason HowellIn our area, Arlington, Virginia is known for many things; both serious and perhaps a little frivolous (thanks Remy).

To the world, Arlington is home to the Pentagon:  the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense. As one of three crash sites on 9/11/2001, the Pentagon and our county share a unique history with New York City and Somerset, Pennsylvania. The USS New York (LPD-21) was commissioned on 11/2/2009 and the USS Somerset (LPD-25) was christened on 7/28/2012. This spring, Arlington will join those cities in commemorating the September 11th attacks when the USS Arlington (LPD-24) is commissioned.

The USS Arlington (LPD-24) is a San Antonio-class, amphibious transport dock built to host 800 Marines. These ships are meant to head a transformation and modernization of Navy ships to aid in Marine deployment. This particular vessel will be the third in the United States Navy to bear Arlington’s name but the first to travel throughout the world with steel taken from the crash site at the Pentagon.

Aboard the ship will be a tribute room to honor the lives lost due to the hijacking of American Airlines Flight 77. This ship’s sponsor is Mrs. Joyce Rumsfeld, wife of former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.  At the 2011 christening, Mrs. Rumsfeld was quoted this way by a Mississippi blog:

“To me, this ship represents to full story of that day, the unimaginable followed by the courage, determination, focus and love of country that was demonstrated every day after 9/11,” Rumsfeld said. “It represents the first responders, the men and women working at the Pentagon, the families, the hard hats, the construction workers, doctors, nurses, hospital staff, volunteers, chaplains, residents of Arlington.”

Every person’s experience with 9/11 is personal. Like many I was at work when the attacks began. Some people were quiet, some people immediately started crying and some people started crying as the morning wore on. A couple of executives took charge and I remember one in particular admitting that he didn’t know whether it was safer to stay at work or head to the Metro. We each had a personal reaction to what happened that day and annually we are reminded of that experience; whether we want to be or not. This Navy ship provides one other way for us to share a uniquely local experience with the world.

USS Arlington (photo courtesy Northrop Grumman)The Navy League of Hampton Roads, a 501 (c) (3) organization, members of the Arlington community and Northern Virginia residents have formed a commissioning committee for a possible April 6th commissioning ceremony. The Sun Gazette recently reported the bipartisan nature of this venture with both County Democrats and County Republicans in support of this very “Arlington” project.

We can support the USS Arlington commissioning by donating directly to the Navy League of Hampton Roads or by celebrating local business owners who show their support by displaying a door decal which bears the emblem.

“Never Forget” is the official byword for the commissioning committee; as if we ever could actually forget. The three naval ships, now including our USS Arlington, will travel for years throughout international waters to ensure that neither will the rest of the world.

For more information on how you can participate as a volunteer, donor or in any other capacity, just send a note to USSARLCommissioning@gmail.com or call 703-328-5246.

Jason Howell, a former accountant and motivational speakerran as an independent candidate for U.S. Congress in 2012.