The christening of a Navy destroyer on Saturday highlighted the sacrifices of two generations – the ship’s namesake killed in World War II and another Marine who died more than 60 years later.
The future USS Basilone is named after a Marine who received the Medal of Honor before his death on Iwo Jima.
Breaking a bottle on the bow of the ship for luck was a woman who lost her brother to an ambush in Fallujah, Iraq.
The legacy and sacrifice of these Marines are never forgotten, Sgt. Marine Corps Maj. Troy Black told a crowd of 2,000 gathered next to the warship at Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works in Maine.
Artillery Sergeant. John Basilone received the Medal of Honor for his heroism while defending Henderson Field against a fierce assault by a Japanese force of 3,000 during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942.
The New Jersey resident returned home to a hero’s welcome and parade. But he asked to join his comrades and died on the opening day of the invasion of Iwo Jima in February 1945. He was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously for his heroism that day.
His 92-year-old brother Donald and others at the ceremony spoke of Basilone’s patriotism, dedication and bravery.
This included his insistence on returning to combat instead of staying safe for the rest of the war. “He really wanted to go back,” Donald Basilone said in a statement read by his niece.
Ryan Manion, whose brother Navy 1st Lt. Travis Manion was killed in Iraq, said his brother and the ship’s namesake were cut from the same cloth, even though they were from different generations.
“John Basilone was a young patriot who joined the military to do his job when his country needed him most,” she said.
The ceremony marked a milestone in the construction of the 509ft guided missile destroyer. Dignitaries included admirals, family members, Democratic Governor Janet Mills and Republican Senator Susan Collins.
Manion, who is one of the ship’s sponsors, is president of the Pennsylvania-based Travis Manion Foundation, which aims to empower veterans and the families of fallen heroes, using her brother’s words: “If not isn’t me, so who?”
His brother was killed by a sniper when he exposed himself to enemy fire to gain an advantageous firing position and distract injured Marines in a 2007 ambush in Iraq.