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NEWS | May 26, 2023

Memorial Day ceremony honors the sacrifices of 34 employees who died in the line of duty at NUWC Division Newport

By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs

Driving home the importance of the work being done at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport is a slogan: Undersea Superiority: Today and Tomorrow. “But there are times when employees should reflect and remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in aiding the warfighter.”

That was the message delivered by Kasim Yarn, director of Veterans Services for the State of Rhode Island, who served as guest speaker during a Memorial Day remembrance ceremony held May 25 at the command’s memorial monument.

“We’re bridging the gap, laying that foundation to our past to ensure that we can accomplish our mission, today and tomorrow,” Yarn told the crowd gathered around the command flagpole.

Carly Diette, deputy director of Corporate Communications, served as master of ceremonies and opened the remembrance by honoring the 34 men who died while serving at NUWC’s predecessor organizations. These include the Naval Torpedo Station, Naval Underwater Ordnance Station, and Naval Underwater Weapons Research and Engineering Station.

After Diette read each name of the fallen, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Colter Christensen, an electronics technician assigned to Division Newport’s Undersea Warfare Combat Systems Department, tolled a bell twice.

“When you listen to those names being called, you just think about their ages. This is the true essence of Memorial Day,” Yarn said. “It is through their sacrifice that should give us motivation. To give our future warfighters the tools they need to be successful, each one of you plays a critical role. Yes, you are making a difference!”

In February 2016, then-Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo appointed Yarn as the state’s first director of veteran affairs. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, he served 20 years in the Navy and has been a permanent resident of Rhode Island with his family since 2004. He earned a master’s degree in National Strategic Studies at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport and later became a faculty member.

During his remarks, Yarn said that even during the many cookouts this Memorial Day weekend, there are three things you can do to pay tribute to those who have died in the line of duty — remember, honor and teach. To remember, Yarn said there will be a ceremony Monday at 1 p.m. at the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in the R.I. Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Exeter.

“If you can join us, please do,” Yarn said. “Come see me. I’ll get you a seat!”

To honor military members, Yarn said, simply support veterans and their families. He thanked the Sailors in attendance and asked how many were enrolled in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Health Economics Resource Center (HERC) system. For those who weren’t enrolled, or for family members of veterans who weren’t enrolled, Yarn provided contact forms to be filled out.

“Get them signed up,” he said. “This is what it’s going to take in order to move the needle to support our heroes, America’s true heroes.”

Yarn urged employees to talk to young people about the value of freedom. 

“We need to teach our children the true meaning of sacrifice,” he said. “Put down the phone, go outside and listen. Instill in them the true virtues in honoring Memorial Day.”

After Yarn spoke, he joined Division Newport’s Executive Officer Cmdr. Jason Patton in placing a wreath at the base of the monument that honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice at NUWC’s predecessor organizations. They then stood and rendered a salute as Petty Officer 1st Class Catherine Chauvot, a bugler with the Navy Band Northeast, played a rendition of “Taps.”

The monument initially was erected in 1930 at Government Landing in downtown Newport under the auspices of the Newport Metal Trades Council. In 1966, it was moved to its current location. More about the 34 employees who died in the line of duty and are named on the monument can be found here.

Patton, who introduced Yarn, said while traditionally Memorial Day is about remembering uniformed members who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom, perhaps too little is done to remember the non-uniformed members who contributed to that goal.

“[Remember] the men and women who have put themselves in harm’s way by working tirelessly with high-energy systems, especially during the early years when production and innovation were prioritized over safety, doing what they had to do in order to give the Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Airmen the tools they need to fight and win in combat,” Patton said. “I can’t imagine how many more uniformed members wouldn’t make it home without the hard work and sacrifice of the millions of civilians supporting the military back home, like here at NUWC.”

NUWC Division Newport acting Technical Director Christopher DelMastro closed the program by also praising employees and the work they do.

“What you do matters. Don’t forget that when you leave here today,” he said. “There are people’s lives depending on you.”

NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.

Join our team! NUWC Division Newport, one of the 20 largest employers in Rhode Island, employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, and other STEM professionals, as well as talented business, finance, logistics and other support experts who wish to be at the forefront of undersea research and development. Please connect with NUWC Division Newport Recruiting at this site- and follow us on LinkedIn @NUWC-Newport and on Facebook @NUWCNewport.