USS Constitution Celebrates Independence Day

USS Constitution Celebrates Independence Day

USS Constitution got underway in Boston Harbor to kick-off the city’s celebration of America’s 237th birthday, followed by a naturalization ceremony where 26 new American citizens were administered the Oath of Allegiance July 4.

Approximately 500 guests accompanied the 215-year-old Constitution on its second scheduled underway of 2013, including 150 winners of Constitution’s annual Fourth of July public lottery drawing.

“This is one of those moments of a lifetime that most people never get to experience, but it was an amazing moment for me to board (Constitution) and be on the ship while underway,” said Susan Palmer, a turnaround cruise guest and distant relative of Capt. William Bainbridge, one of Constitution’s commanding officers during the War of 1812. “This is just a magical day for me, and I’m so thankful to have the chance to be here aboard a true piece of American history.”

Old Ironsides’ three-hour tour of the harbor began at 11 a.m. and was highlighted with the firing of two gun salutes from two of the ship’s long guns. The first was a 21-gun salute which occurred at noon near Fort Independence on Castle Island in honor of the United States. After the completion of the salute aboard Constitution, cannons stationed at Fort Independence then replied with a 21-gun salute of their own.

Constitution’s second salute, in honor of the city of Boston, was a 17-gun salute performed while passing U.S. Coast Guard Base Boston, the former site of the Edmund Hartt Shipyard where Old Ironsides was launched on Oct. 21, 1797. The shots honored the 16 states that comprised America at the time of Constitution’s launch and one in honor of the ship itself. Constitution then returned to its berth at pier one in Charlestown Navy Yard at approximately 2 p.m.

“It was a remarkable underway – I don’t think you could ask for a better day to celebrate our Nation’s independence in Boston,” said Cmdr. Matt Bonner, Constitution’s 72nd commanding officer. “To be aboard Constitution with 500 other people all celebrating the birth of our Nation is just an amazing feeling – you can really feel the patriotism running through everyone here.”

The July 4 underway also marked the final harbor cruise at the helm of Old Ironsides for Bonner, who is scheduled to transfer command of America’s Ship of State to Cmdr. Sean Kearns on July 26.

“It’s been a fantastic tour,” said Bonner. “I tell people this is the most personally and professionally rewarding experience I’ve ever had. Constitution has become a part of me, and though I’m saddened to be turning her over, I know Cmdr. Kearns will continue to build upon the legacy built by my predecessors over the past two centuries.”

After the conclusion of the underway, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) hosted a naturalization ceremony aboard Constitution. 26 candidates for U.S. citizenship were presented to the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, listened to a pre-recorded message from President Barack Obama, and were then administered the Oath of Allegiance by the Honorable William G. Young, United States District Judge.

The 26 citizenship candidates originated from the following 18 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Cape Verde, Cuba, Ethiopia, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Israel, Jamaica, Mexico, Morocco, People’s Republic of China, Thailand, Ukraine, and United Kingdom.

One of the candidates was Jodi Linney, Constitution’s command ombudsman and wife of Constitution Sailor Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Kevin Linney. Linney, originally from Canada, has been married to her husband Kevin since 2009 and said that she had to keep putting off becoming a U.S. citizen for various reasons until the opportunity to be sworn-in as an American citizen aboard Constitution presented itself.

“It’s basically been a dream come true – I couldn’t have asked for any better time or place for this event to have occurred in my life,” said Linney. “(The ceremony) couldn’t have been any more patriotic – I feel like my life has fully changed and I’m so excited about that change and to be able to fully support my husband and understand what he’s fighting for every day.”

USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, actively defended sea lanes against global threats from 1797 to 1855. Now a featured attraction on Boston’s Freedom Trail, Constitution and her crew of U.S. Navy Sailors offer community outreach and education about the ship’s history to more than 500,000 visitors each year.

Press Release, July 5, 2013; Image: US Navy