A brand new United States Naval Ship was christened on Saturday in honor of a decorated Vietnam War veteran. USNS Miguel Keith (ESB 5) was unveiled in San Diego, California on Saturday morning at General Dynamics NASSCO along East Harbor Drive.
The ship was named in honor of Marine Corps veteran Lance Cpl. Miguel Keith, and is the first ship to bear the name. In 1971, Keith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the war.
Keith was mortally wounded in 1970 when his platoon came under heavy fire, but he continued to engage the enemy with heavy machine gunfire and advance upon an estimated 25 enemy soldiers, killing four and dispersing the rest.
“His performance in the face of overwhelming odds contributed, in no small measure, to the success of his platoon defeating a numerically superior enemy force,” the Department of Defense said in a press release.
Serving as the ship’s sponsor, Keith’s mother, Eliadora Delores Keith, broke the ceremonial champagne bottle across the hull of the ship. His family said they flew in from their Texas hometown for the ceremony.
“Oh my gosh,” exclaimed Keith’s younger sister Raquell Beck. “It’s just so overwhelming for us. We found out about it and there is just, we came here and we seen the enormity of all of this. Words can’t express how honored, how proud of everything and making sure mother got here so she could see this, she is just overwhelmed.”
USNS Miguel Keith, coming in at 784-feet long or almost three football fields long, will join 125 other Military Sealift Command ships. It has a 52,000 square-foot flight deck.
The ship can accommodate 250 personnel plus fuel and equipment storage, and will also support MH-53 and MH-60 helicopters with the option to support MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft.
The ship’s future missions include, but are not limited to Airborne Mine Counter Measures support operations, counter-piracy operations, maritime security, and humanitarian missions.
USNS Miguel Keith was under construction at General Dynamics NASSCO.
Retired Gen. Walter E. Boomer, USMC, 24th assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, delivered the ceremony's principal address.