Former Senator John Glenn, also known for his career as a decorated Marine Corps pilot and as the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth, visited San Diego Saturday for a special event involving the christening of a United States Naval Ship named in his honor.
“I’m very proud to have my name on this ship – very proud,” said Glenn, referring to the new USNS John Glenn (MLP 2), christened at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego.
The patriotic ceremony featured several speakers, including NASSCO vice president and general manager, Kevin Graney and Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, USN, Chief of Naval Operations. Others who took the podium included: Lt. General John A. Toolan, USMC, Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force; Rear Admiral Thomas K. Shannon, USN, Commander, Military Sealift Command; and The Honorable Sean J. Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
After many speeches commending Glenn’s career and commitment to the U.S. Marine Corps, the ship’s namesake himself took a moment to address the crowd.
On stage, the man who flew 149 missions as a U.S. Marine pilot, spent 218 hours in space as an astronaut and spent four consecutive terms in office as a U.S. senator, seemed truly humbled by the moment.
“All the nice things being said about me are a little hard to assimilate,” said Glenn. “Thank you.”
Glenn went on to talk about his deep respect for the U.S. service members and heroes he served with in World War II and the Korean War.
“All of them did not come back,” he lamented.
“While I’m accepting accolades here and my name is going to be on this ship, [let’s] do this thinking about all of those people, too,” Glenn added. “[Those] wonderful folks.”
In traditional christening fashion, Glenn daughter, also the ship’s sponsor, broke a champagne bottle against the ship’s hull (see photo below).
After the ceremony, Glenn briefly spoke with media, saying he looks forward to seeing USNS John Glenn in action. He said the ship would be used to help countries around the world and provide humanitarian aid as needed.
According to NASSCO, USNS John Glenn is the second ship of the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) class, which is a flexible platform that will provide capability for large-scale logistics movements. This includes the transfer of vehicle and equipment from sea to shore. It will also provide support in the absence of a port, making it useful for Marines during disaster relief response.
USNS John Glenn will be delivered to the Navy in the first quarter of 2014.