SUBASE NEW LONDON, GROTON, Conn. (May. 28, 2022) – Pier side seating (cheap seats at the end of the pier) for the commissioning of USS OREGON (SSN 793). The weather did not dampen the occasion but, it did keep the crowd numbers down. But, the slight mist rolled on and the ceremony that had been in the making during these unpredictable COVID times went on. The usually pomp and circumstance which never gets dull, especially for this person who has experience a commissioning first hand. I am a Plank Owner of USS MARYLAND (SSBN 738) (Blue) Crew, back in June 13, 1992 built by Electric Boat, Groton. At that time, I was a First Class and the Leading Yeoman.
Plank Owners is a time-honored tradition dating back to wooden ships (No, not mine!), the officers and crew who are serving aboard the boat at the time of commissioning have earned the title of “Plank Owner.” With this privilege, there is a great deal of pride and responsibility that each member of the commissioning crew will hold for life. MARYLAND’s ceremony was held at the pier located below Fort Trumbull across from Electric Boat on the Thames River. At that time, the fort was covered over by unruly undergrowth and trees blocking the view of the fort. What I noticed today that I felt back then, was the involvement of families with pride shinning from their faces. As I was taking photos I notice a young girl maybe about eleven or twelve holding her baby brother in her arms, swaying him back and forth and the mother was sitting in the crew’s seating area with three more children. I smiled, because each child was wearing the same colors on their outfit as their mother. I smiled too because way back when I was in uniform on the MARYLAND on my special day, my wife who was then co-ombudsman expecting our third child (in two months) also did the same with my two young boys who were a year apart in age. Now thirty years later, I am witnessing the same scenes and seeing the same emotions.
You could hear the pride in the platform announcer, Lieutenant Commander, Collin Hedges, Executive Officer every time he was talking into the microphone. The same for each of the guests sitting on the platform. They spoke of pride, pride of the crew, pride of the State of Oregon and pride of the families that are also a big part of the makeup of the crew. Speaking about pride, after the ceremony a reception was held at the end of the pier and under the tents, the State of Oregon was prevalent. Wine and beer; Corn Dogs and Tater Tots, Cheese and Crackers, Bite size sliders with cheese and Sorbet for desert, everything had a tie to the State of Oregon and of course two sheet cakes designed with USS OREGON’s crest. OREGON’s crest is a visual representation and homage to the state. As other boats past, each crest tells something that is special to the State or to the name of the boat.
As I wrapped up taking photos and tasting the food that was offered, I came across the family that the young girl was holding during the ceremony. I went up and smile and told the mother she had a wonderful family and I was impressed how well the daughtered handled the baby brother. I also told her how my wife dressed my two boys in the same manner way back when they were toddlers. The mother smiled back and thanked me for the complements and I wished her well and left. But, what even hit the mark more for me, her husband must have had duty during this time, because I did not see him with her. Again, I keep thinking of the dedication and patience my wife had waiting for me to get off the boat when we pulled back into port.
If you ever been at one of these after ceremonies, you need more than two hands to juggle the food, the drinks and the items you tend to pick up like posters from the Navy’s Historical Society or coins, hat, shirts being sold by the crew or by the commissioning committee. So, I finally found one of those four person tables that are about chest high that you can stand up against and place your drink, food or whatever and then a guest of the crew comes by and ask me if she can stop and use the other half of the table, which I said no problem. I asked her if she enjoyed the ceremony and asked her, who she was a guest of, from the boat. Well, she said she was having a great time and it turned out she was the mother of the Commanding Officer, Commander Lacy N. Lodmell. It was my pleasure to stand there and listening to her speak, I could see that her son had showed the same kindness when he spoke earlier during the ceremony. I asked her when she was leaving the area and she said not for a few days, and I said well I can see you would not have any problems getting on board for a tour or two before you leave and she smiled. I thanked her for her time and wished her well and left for the school bus to take me back to my vehicle then home.
I also met a few of SUPSHIP Groton Team members that came with their guest for the event and everyone had a nice time. Because attendance was down, waiting time for a tour of the boat wasn’t bad and people were not bumping into each other under the food tents or on the bus ride.