Sailors aboard the world’s oldest commissioned warship still afloat got underway from the ship’s berth in Charlestown, Massachusetts, on May 18, to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.
USS Constitution is sailing with Vietnam veterans onboard as a thank you for their years of service and sacrifice for their country.
“I appreciate the extraordinary efforts of our partners and am humbled to be able to recognize, thank and honor our military veterans who served during the Vietnam War Period,” said Cmdr. Nathaniel R. Shick, USS Constitution’s 75th commanding officer. “I owe a portion of my naval heritage to my father, a Vietnam veteran serving as a machinist mate aboard the ballistic missile submarine, USS George C. Marshall (SSBN 654). Thanks to his service and that of our 7 million Vietnam veterans, our military servicemen and women enjoy a tremendous outpouring of support today.”
Slipping her berth at 10:00 a.m. with 401 veterans and their guests, Constitution navigated down the Charles River Basin out to Boston’s Inner Harbor.
Among the guests aboard was Vietnam Veteran U.S Air Force Master Sgt. Joseph Chebatah whose son, Shayne Chebatah, is a crewmember aboard Constitution.
“The underway was wonderful, I fully enjoyed it,” said Chebatah. “The information about the ship was new and exciting and the people talking were very knowledgeable on the history of the ship. This voyage was something that I wouldn’t trade for anything and I enjoyed it a lot more because I got to spend it with my son.”
Constitution fired off a 21-gun salute which was returned by the Concord Independent Battery and Massachusetts Army National Guard 101st Field Artillery near Fort Independence on Castle Island. Fort Independence is a state park that served as a defensive position for Boston Harbor from 1634 to 1962.
The ship also fired an additional 17 rounds as she passed the US Coast Guard Station, the former site of Edmund Hartt’s shipyard where Constitution was built. Each round of this salute honored the 16 states that comprised The United States when Constitution launched in 1797 and one in honor of the ship herself.
“The last underway I had aboard constitution was 40 years ago and this one felt like nothing has changed,” said Jeffrey Lawn, a USS Constitution crewmember from 1977-78. “Talking to the present crew and learning about their experiences was amazing. I always tell them, if anyone asks who they are, reply with ‘I am Old Ironsides’ because they are part of a legacy.”
The ship returned to her berthing, Pier 1 of the Charlestown Navy Yard, at 1 p.m.
Constitution, America’s Ship of State, actively defended sea lanes against global threats from 1797-1855. Now a featured destination on Boston’s Freedom Trail, Constitution and her crew of active duty US Navy sailors offer community outreach and education about the ship’s history and the importance of naval sea power to more than 500,000 visitors each year. Constitution is berthed at Pier One in Charlestown Navy Yard.