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Naming Ceremony of USS James Elliott Williams
Darlington, SC
May 26, 2001

The United States Navy on the World Wide Web
Remarks by MCPON(SS/SW/AW) James L. Herdt
At the USS James E. Williams Naming announcement ceremony
Darlington, S.C.
May 26, 2001

Thank you Captain Smith. Elaine, and all of the Williams family, this is indeed a special day for all of us. It is an honor to be in the presence of such a distinguished group of people.

Past and present members of the special boat community, I can't tell you how grateful I am that you are here to help us honor one of your own. Distinguished guests, shipmates and friends thank you for making this day so special.

It is an honor for me to be here today to announce the name of the Navy's forty-fifth Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer. This is the first time I've ever been asked to announce the Naming of a United States Ship. And to my knowledge, this is the first time the honor has been bestowed upon an enlisted Sailor. I am proud that it is so in honoring this enlisted hero.

Ship naming announcements are normally made by the Secretary of the Navy. Needless to say I was thrilled to accept former Secretary Danzig's, and now Secretary of the Navy England's offer, as the Navy's senior enlisted Sailor, to formally announce the Naming of this very special ship on his behalf.

The Navy has a unique way of honoring its heroes, history and ideals. By naming our ships, they become more than just another piece of hardware, they take on a life and spirit all their own. For more than a hundred years, nearly all U.S. Navy destroyers have been named for American Naval leaders and Heroes. This is certainly true for the destroyer we are naming today.

Until now this ship has been known simply by its hull number DDG-95. However as of this moment, this great ship in the making will take on the name of a man who truly meets the definition of an American Naval Leader and Hero, James E. Williams.

While I didn't know Elliott in person, today is the second time that I have had the honor to participate in a service honoring him on behalf of all enlisted Sailors. The first time was at his funeral on October 16th, 1999. Today I am pleased and honored to be here in these happier circumstances. I can't think of a finer example of an American patriot than James E. Williams.

He served his country as a career Sailor at a time when it wasn't the most popular thing to do. He volunteered for combat duty in Vietnam where his actions as boat captain and patrol officer aboard River Patrol Boat 105 earned him the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross. After retiring from the Navy, Elliott continued his life of service to his country by serving as a U.S. Marshal here in South Carolina. I started my Navy career just as Elliott was ending his.

While a lot has changed in our Navy since then, we still look for the same qualities of honor, courage and commitment that he exemplified so well. While Sailors like James E. Williams, had the opportunity to demonstrate great and courageous deeds that American Sailors are capable of, the honor, courage and commitment that was present in heroes of the past still resides in today's Navy.

I am grateful that we live in a world not at war. We do however, live in a dangerous world, but I am certain the men and women of today's Navy remain ready to answer their nation's call. I am so confident of their abilities, that I think of them as 372,000 heroes in waiting. You need only look as far back as the bombing of the USS COLE last October to see how ordinary Sailors, readily step into heroic deeds. Like Elliott, these Sailors were not looking to become heroes. They were simply serving their nation in a world that is not always friendly.

Americans today enjoy peace and prosperity largely because Sailors ensure our freedom here at home by serving at sea aboard great ships like COLE and soon JAMES E. WILLIAMS. Today's naming ceremony is only one of the very first milestones in the career of USS JAMES E. WILLIAMS. Still ahead are several more formal milestones before the ship takes our country's flag to the four corners of the globe.

First will be the keel laying when the actual construction of the ship begins. This is scheduled to take place in July of next year in Pascagula, Mississippi. The next milestone will be the christening ceremony. The christening ceremony is the event the name announced today is formally applied to the steel hull. Finally there will be a commissioning ceremony in which the ship's new crew will transform the newly built skeleton of steel into a living ship, fleshed-out by the Sailors who are made of the same right stuff as was Elliott.

His life of service will continue to have a positive impact as United States Ship JAMES E. WILLIAMS carries the sovereignty of our great country to sea and to countries around the world. The ship's future crew, their families and friends will learn Elliott Williams' story of heroism and service over and over, and will take it with them, just like those who were fortunate enough to know him in person. With that, I invite Elaine (Williams) to join me to accept this certificate announcing the naming of USS JAMES E. WILLIAMS.

Thank you.

This story was contributed: Lee Wahler