On May 13th the US Navy commissioned DDG-123 the USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee in Key West Florida. She is named for Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee a pioneering Navy Nurse. (Contains graphics and titles.)
Good morning. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Conch Republic, beautiful Key West Florida in the commissioning of us, Lena Sutcliff Higbee. I’m commander James Giles, the ship’s executive officer. It’s my privilege to be your master of ceremonies. Today, we welcome those with us in person and our friends and family as they participate in today’s event via the World Wide Web. We are here today to commission the second ship of the line to proudly honor a pioneer in the United States Navy. Chief nurse Lena Sutcliffe Higbee, the first ship, the USS Higbee was a gearing class destroyer in the United States Navy during World War II. She was the first US war ship named for a female member of the United States Navy. Leaping Lina as she had been dubbed by her crew screened the carriers as their planes launched heavy air attacks against the Japanese mainland during World War II. Additionally, she provided naval gunfire support throughout the Korean and Vietnam wars. She earned a total of seven battle stars during her 37 years of service. She was decommissioned and struck from the navy list 15 July 1979. This crew is poised and ready to continue the proud traditions set by us Higbee and to continue to honor our ship’s namesake, Lena Sutcliffe Higbee. We are honored to have several former Higbee crew members with us today. Gentlemen, please stand and be recognized. Lest we forget the white shoe Navy supports the fleet. We have members of the Navy Nurse Corps association with us. Ladies and gentlemen of the Navy nurse Corps, please stand and be recognized. Would all active duty, retired and civilian nurses please stand. Would all active duty service members and veterans, please stand. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your service and sacrifice. Please be seated. Our ceremony today is a time honored tradition that began with the commissioning of our first warship. A captured British schooner, the Margaretta in 17 75. Since then, thousands of ships have undergone the transformation from silent halls to fully alive warships. Our commissioning crew hereafter known as plant owners are in formation among you and ready to bring our ship to life. In just a few moments. Navy Band Southeast will render honors to the honorable Donald Norcross. Will the guest please rise and remain standing for the arrival of our official party honors the presentation of colors in our national anthem. Ladies and gentlemen, our platform guests, Lieutenant Ross Engle Chaplain Corps, United States Navy, our ceremony chaplain Captain Martin Jenkins, United States Navy, retired chairman, us Lena Sutcliffe Higbee, commissioning committee, Mister Peter Verga and Mrs. Pearl salters are long last presenters Margaret Munford and MS Mary Reid Munford, our maids of honor, Captain Gregory Mitchell United States Navy, executive officer supervisor of shipbuilding Gulf coast. Captain Courtney MRE United States Navy commander, destroyer squadron 21, Captain Seth Miller United States Navy DDG 51 class shipbuilding program manager, MS Jill Broward, executive director, Combatants Program executive office ships carry Wilkinson, executive vice President H I I and President Ingels ship building Rear Admiral Cynthia Keener nurse corps, United States Navy Commander, naval Medical Forces support, command director of the US Navy Corps, the honorable Terry Johnston, mayor of city of Key West Florida. Admiral Michael M Gilda, United States Navy, the 32nd chief of naval operations, the honorable Carlos Del Toro, the 78 Secretary of the Navy. Ok. Ladies and gentlemen, our ships sponsors MS Louisa Dixon, MS Virginia Munford and Miss Picket Wilson escorted today by master chief Christy Pasko USS Lena Sutcliffe Higbee. S command, master chief, ladies and gentlemen, the honorable Donald Norcross, United States representative, New Jersey’s first district and member of the House Armed Services Committee escorted today by commander Douglas Brayton, United States Navy, Lena Sutcliffe Higbee, commanding officer. Ladies and gentlemen, honors to the honorable Donald Norcross platform. Ready to advance the colors, platform hand salute. Yeah. Yeah. Say so. What song. Who’s no time for the hardly words of. Mhm. Me. Yeah. No. Right. Oh. Mhm. No. And retire the colors platform. Ready to ladies and Gentlemen, chaplain Engle will now deliver the invocation. Let us pray. Heavenly Father, you establish governments to preserve peace, defend the weak and to uphold justice. On this beautiful day. We gather to commission the good ship Lena Sutcliffe Higbee, our nation’s newest instrument of freedom and democracy. We ask your presence among us as we present this ship to our nation for service on its behalf. We thank you for the legacy of our ship’s namesake, Lena Sutcliffe Higbee for her devotion and service to this nation and people in need. She and the sacred 20 nurses of 19 8 blazed a trail, providing courageous, compassionate care to wounded and dying service members proving the same that nurses fight when others no longer can. May her heroism, love of country and sacrificial service flow as the lifeblood of this ship that now bears her name. We honor the dignitaries before us who have worn the cloth of our nation. And we are grateful to those who sponsored this ship. We give thanks for their loving devotion, sacrifices and service to our country. May each be an example of faithful service and commitment to duty. Thank you Lord for all who labored over Higbee as she grew from a concept and dream to a finished sea ready vessel waiting to be brought to life in her commissioning USS Lina Saa Pig is so much more than advanced systems and strong steel. She is the flesh and blood of her captain and crew. The hundreds of sailors who will stand side by side breathing life into this ship fighting for her and each other as this mighty warship stands proudly before us. Now, we humbly ask you to grant strength and determination to every crew member who will sail in her. From commanders Brayton and Giles to the youngest undesignated seamen and every sailor chief and officer in between, make each member of her crew for generations to come a shining light of courage and sacrificial love to others. May all they do be guided and directed by your spirit to the praise and honor of your holy name. Amen. Thank you chaplain Engle. We would like to thank Navy Band Southeast, the Naval Ordinance Test Unit, saluting battery, the Key West Division Sea Cadet color guard and our own USS Lena quartet for their support today. Additionally, we would like to thank and acknowledge the city of Key West Florida, the commanding officer of Naval Air Station, Key West, Captain Beth Rago and her amazing team, the Key West Council of the United States Navy League and the Lena Sutcliffe Higbee Commissioning Committee for their generosity and support. Will the guest please be seated, ship’s company parade, rest, ladies and gentlemen, the honorable Terry Johnston. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the commissioning of the guided missile destroyer Lena Sutcliffe Higbee. I want to wish a very special Key West. Welcome to Miss Louisa Dixon, Virginia Munford Pickett Wilson, our ship sponsors to Miss Margaret Munford, Miss Mary Reid Munford, maids of honor and to the honorable United States Representative Donald Norcross, the honorable Carlos Del Toro, the 78 Secretary of the Navy, Admiral Michael M Gilda, the 32nd chief of Navy operations and rear Admiral Cynthia Kar commander, naval Medical Forces support command director of the Navy, the nursing corps commanding officer Bradenton and the crew of the USS Lena Six Higbee and also the distinguished guests that we have here today, including family members of Mr. Hicks. It is an honor for the residents of Key West and Monroe County to host the commissioning of the USS Lena Sutcliffe Higbee. This morning, we are thrilled that you have joined us in the southernmost city in the United States and I hope that each and every one of you feel the love, respect and admiration that this community has for every man and woman in the United States Navy. It is a special privilege to be honoring the woman who was the first and only female recipient of the Navy Cross, the second highest decoration awarded for valor in combat, Lena Sutcliffe Higbee. While the culmination of today’s ceremony is to bring this ship to life in Key West. We feel it is our obligation to bring your crew to life. From an evening at the Little White House to the historic Hemingway House, to the sounds of cliff Cody K Mack and Howard Livingstone your crew got an opportunity to experience real Key West and what week would be fitting without an evening at Rs and Irish cabins. So thank you everyone who participated, particularly the Navy League Key West Council who made this a special week for all of the officers and the crew of the USS Lena Sutcliffe Higbee before they depart Key West. So in closing, we are grateful and honored that you chose Key West for this commissioning until we see you docked in the port of Key West again. We wish you fair winds and following seas be safe until we see you again. Thank you so much. Thank you, Mayor Johnston. Ladies and gentlemen, Miss carry Wilkinson. Good morning. I have to admit to feeling a little over, overdressed this morning on a ship. I’m accustomed to wearing a hard hat and steel toes on. It’s really a pleasure to be here. We appreciate so much for having shipbuilders here and for inviting us to represent the thousands of shipbuilders of Ingles shipbuilding and to the extraordinary individuals I’ve joined on this platform. It is a tremendous honor to be here with you. We’ve entered our 85th year of building and supporting ships at Ingles ship building. We are a collection of incredibly diverse individuals but connected by a common purpose that binds us together, like family and serving a mission much bigger than ourselves. And while this weekend is about a number of important missions that fulfill a greater purpose. This morning, I would like to talk briefly about an underpinning of them all. And that is service. Now, we know that by simple definition, service is a contribution to the welfare of others. And that is something that is fairly easy to put into perspective in today’s world, whether in terms of global good or our own national security. There have never been more opportunities to put aside individual wants and needs and focus on the bigger picture and like our ship’s namesake, a woman that dedicated her life to improving the welfare of others. The community represented at this event today, whether namesake family sponsor navy leader, elected official shipbuilder, supplier, partner, or citizen of this great nation. We have the privilege of coming together in service of our country. We at Ingles have served our nation through the construction test and delivery of the ship and legacy we celebrate today since we laid her keel until 2017. And all of us as a community have imparted sweat equity together during this time bound together in fulfilling an important mission in support of greater good. We now watch this ship soon to be brought to life by a dedicated talented and mission ready group of individuals as she begins her official service in support of global good and our national security. Your Ingels shipbuilders couldn’t be prouder. So my remarks this morning are brief but most sincere for me. It is a privilege to serve the shipbuilders of Ingles that remain steadfastly dedicated to our common purpose who honor their families and their communities by continuing our legacy of building freedom for our Ingles team. It is a privilege to serve the United States Navy and our nation to our medical professionals and especially our nurses. Thank you for taking care of us and fulfilling your purpose in what likely seems a thankless mission. Not only do you do this every day today, but you did this tirelessly for shipbuilders throughout a significant portion of the construction and delivery of this ship to our service members, whether in the Navy or another branch of service. Thank you for protecting us our way of life and peace around the world. You are the very best example of service, the fruits of which are enjoyed by literally millions of people that will never have the privilege of knowing you and the individual sacrifices you make. Thank you all for your contributions and for allowing Ingle ship building and the greater team. The honor to be here today to see this ship brought to life and to personally say, thank you for your service. Thank you. Thank you, Miss Wilkinson, ladies and gentlemen, the honorable Donald Norcross. Good afternoon. It is wonderful to be here. Mayor. Thank you for such a wonderful experience in a uniquely American city called Key West. And I will also echo the comments that this is the most formal I have ever been since I’ve ever been here in Key West to Miss Wilkinson, representing the men and women who toiled and put this great ship together to Secretary Del Car. Thank you for what you do each and every day in keeping our country safe and to Admiral Gil Day for a lifetime of service for what you do and continue to do on behalf of those brave men and women and the commanding officer Brayden, which may be your biggest day of your life. Congratulations, because I know you will do well to our ship sponsors, the maid of honor, men and women, those who have served in uniform and the rest of us. Beautiful day to be here in Key West. I represent an area of the country in Southern New Jersey, right across from Philadelphia. But I serve on the Armed Services committee specifically in Sea power. Our commitment to those who will man this great ship today begins ends and certainly is overseen. But we are also a member of the sea ship building caucus because we understand it takes more than those that are here today to make sure that our country, our freedoms are protected. So this guided missile destroyers has many roles, anti-air, anti-sub, antianti-surface ballistic missile defense and others. It is the true protectors of our US fleet, just like a nurse part of a greater good, the namesake Leah Sutcliff. He dedicated her life to protecting others and that is what is unique about this great vessels, years of service in the navy. She literally led the way for those who continue to serve today. She touched and saved so many lives. And like Lena, the crew will have an impact on our country and the world and we want to thank them for all that they do is incredibly important to understand that the concept for this great vessel ship starts across this nation. The raw materials come together, the workers who toiled through a pandemic to make sure that this ship would be available to those who would make sure that she protects this country. And we must thank those thousands and thousands of brave workers who continued that job because shipbuilding is part of America. It’s about jobs, it is about national security and across this great nation, we came together to have what you are looking here today. It takes those men and women, the engineers, the welders, the electricians to put this together. But it will take those men and women, the sailors to breathe life into the structure that will go on to defend this great country. So, on behalf of a grateful nation, we want to say thank you to all who are here today and all who have made it possible. Thank you and God bless you. Thank you. Representative Norcross, ladies and gentlemen, Admiral Michael Gilda. Good morning. What a great day for our navy and for our Nation, Key West, a brand new destroyer in the United States Navy. Ladies and gentlemen, it doesn’t get any better than that. Today marks the culmination of almost six years since Higbee queue was laid in November of 2017. Since then, thousands of invisible hands have contributed their time, their toil and their talent to make this day possible. And all of them, all of you should be justifiably proud to see your work come to fruition to our industry partners, to our ship sponsors, to the commissioning committee, to the citizens of Key West and of course to the crew of Higbee. Thank you. Your teamwork is going to bring this mighty new warship to life. Let me also acknowledge some of our distinguished guests in this very special audience, Congressman Norcross. It’s always an honor to join you. Thank you for being here today to our state and local government, community leaders from here in Key West. Thank you for hosting this truly historic event and to the relatives of Lena Sutcliffe Higbee. We are honored by your presence and the legacy of your family. It is fitting that we commission this ship this week, which is the National Nurses Week and particularly on this day, the 13 of May. It was 115 years ago today on this day that our Navy Nurse Corps was formally established, creating the institution that is the lifeblood of Navy Medicine. Somebody once said, save a life and you’re a hero, save 100 lives. You’re a nurse. So it’s only appropriate that in honor of Lena Sutcliff Higbee, we take a moment to acknowledge all of the nurses in the audience today. Would you please stand if able, so that we can honor your service?
Lecli Higbee was one of the 1st 20 nurses in the Navy’s nurse corps known as the Sacred 20 and she served as superintendent of the Corps for 11 of her 14 years of service and she was much more than a nurse. She was also a Trailblazer. She was an innovator and she was a leader who continues to inspire. As I was preparing my remarks for this morning, I found an old paper written by superintendent Higbee. It’s a paper that was presented to the American Nurses Association in May of 1918. Now, in the spring of 1918 constituted one of the greatest tests of her leadership as World War One raged in Europe and as the spreading Spanish influenza began to cast its deadly darkening cast around the world. Higbee was faced with a critical shortfall of nurses in our nurse corps. In her appeal to embolden volunteers to step into the breach. She tried to spark them into the true spirit of service. Her voice inspires me this morning and I hope that it will inspire you as well. Here’s what she wrote. Service offered with one hand while the other is stretched forward is not true service service offered only if assigned to this or to that duty is not true. Service service offered with frequent reminders of positions relinquished and salaries forfeited is not true service. True service she wrote is suffused with a divine 11 of self-sacrifice. Higbee herself embodied this spirit of selfless service. And her example has inspired generations of sailors and service members. Her spirit certainly inspired all of those who served aboard the first USSB as they protected our aircraft carriers and cleared mines in World War II, as they supported the troops who landed ashore in Incheon during the Korean conflict and as they supported our forces off of Danang in Vietnam, I’m honored to recognize the crew members of D D 86 are fellow destroyer men who could join us today. Thank you all for your service. You are living testaments to Higbee s legacy of self service. Gentlemen, can I ask you to please stand if able and be recognized?
And as we all look at this magnificent new warship D D G 123 we know that the bold spirit of Lena Sutcliffe Higbee and the legacy of her name will invigorate and will inspire its crew as they carry out the great work of our navy across the globe. Soon the US says Higbee will join the growing hybrid fleet of manned and unmanned vessels that protect the national security and the prosperity of our citizens. Higbee will play a central role in deterring our adversaries from choosing a devastating path of war and if needed will prevail in conflict. Our navy’s vision for the future is a hybrid fleet of manned vessels like the Higbee combined with unmanned vessels under on and above the seas. So it’s an exciting time for your navy, an important time to serve our nation and we have much work to do as we carry out this work. We will continue to be inspired by the character and the ideals of Lena Sutcliffe Higbee, a warrior, a leader, a selfless servant of our nation. May we all follow her example to the crew of Higbee and particularly to your families who support you and serve alongside you. May God bless you this great ship and your many voyages to come. Now, it gives me distinct pleasure to introduce our 78 th Secretary of the Navy. He is a man, Mr. Secretary. This flyover is for you. He is a man who has demonstrated inspiring and successful leadership, time and time again, both in public service and in private business. He is a devoted patriot. He is a true servant leader and a shining example of the American dream. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming our 78 Secretary of the Navy, the honorable Carlos Del Toro. Yeah. Thank you, Admiral Gil Day, especially for the flyover. Good morning, Key West. Oh my gosh, you could do better than that. It sounds like some of you may have been out on Duval Street a little bit late last night. Good morning, Key West. And I know exactly which one of you are here from Key West and which one of us are here from Washington DC?
Because you’re all the ones wearing shorts aren’t you?
I thought about extending that privilege to the platform guests this morning. I’ve got a lot of special. Thank you to give today. But my first thank you is actually going to go out to this lieutenant chaplain. I got about 500 to 600 chaplains that work for me in the Department of the Navy and the Marine Corps and the Navy chaplain. Would you please stand for a second?
Where are you chaps there?
You are. You know, he’s only a lieutenant and every one of these ceremonies, I asked my chaplains to come through and deliver and he delivered today a beautiful day with cloud cover and just a little bit of wind. How about a hand of applause for the chap?
It really is great to see our chaplain has connections up top. Thank you chaplain. It is really special for me. Before I begin my form remarks, I want to tell you, it’s really special for me here in Key West for several reasons. First and foremost, obviously, to commemorate this Great American patriot as Admiral Gilda. So eloquently stated, the second reason I really wanted to come here And about a month ago, my wife asked me, honey, do you got plans for Mother’s Day Weekend?
I said, sure we’re going to commissioning in Key West. He said, oh, I like that idea, but I really wanted to come here because as was so eloquently expressed about the graciousness of Higbee and her service to country. I want to thank this community, the mayor representing all the people of Key West for the hospitality that you have extended our navy, sailors and marines for decades, as well as as a Cuban American refugee. I came to this country in 1962. And you also have extended a hand of welcome to this great nation to hundreds of thousands of Cuban American refugees. And I just want to take a moment to say thank you to each and every one of you. So thank you as Secretary of the Navy. One of our most privileged responsibilities and rights is to name ships as much as I would like to take credit for naming this great ship after this great patriot and warrior. The true, the true individual who named this ship with tremendous courage of conviction and wisdom is our 75th Secretary of the Navy, Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, former governor of Mississippi and Ray. I want to thank you for your wisdom in naming this great ship. Thank you, sir. Would you please stand up for a moment and be recognized?
Thank you, my special thanks to Miss Louisa Dixon M, Virginia Munford and Miss Pickett Wilson for serving as the sponsors of this great ship, serving as a ship sponsor is an important part of our Navy tradition and your enduring support to the crew of the USS Higbee, both present and future is appreciated as they sail around the globe, defending our nation’s interest. I want to thank Carrie and all of her industry partners and our industry partners and the crew of this great ship for their tireless efforts over the years in support of our construction outfitting and now commissioning. We are here today only thanks to your efforts to bring this ship to life and we are grateful for your continued commitment to doing so. Finally, I want to thank us Snack Commissioning committee as well. Mayor Terry Johnson in the city of Key West for the hard work that went into this ceremony alone throughout our nation’s history, including during World War II and the Cuban missile crisis. And to the present day, Key West has played an important role in the defense of our nation. We are pleased to share this important moment with the people of the Conch Republic and we appreciate your continued support. As I said earlier to our sailors, our marines, our civilians, our families, and especially those that call Key West or home. As we gather here today in what is continental United States?
Southernmost point, I could almost see Cuba, my birthplace and the land of my ancestors off on the horizon, a mere 90 miles away. Over 60 years ago, my father spent time in a Cuban prison where he was jailed for counter revolutionary activities. Eventually he was released and given 48 hours to leave the country. The Cuba, he and my mother grew up in the Cuba. They knew and loved was disappearing before their eyes. So my parents fled with their one year old me in their arms and found refuge. Like so many people from all over the world here in the United States, this great nation not only offered us refuge but a warm welcome. The opportunity to start over to pursue dreams and goals that would have been impossible in a communist country. While my family was lucky enough to make it out of Cuba, they left behind friends and families who continued to live under the control of a government that they did not respect one that did not respect human rights. Sadly, though many years have passed the situation with Cuba is not resolved and the Cuban experience is neither unique or nor constrained to a single island around the globe. Today, millions of people live under the heel of oppressive governments that seek to upend our long lasting rules based international order, our navy, and in particular, our surface fleet, send a strong signal that we remain committed to our values, values that we share with our allies and partners. Around the world and which under grid, the prosperity and the economic growth that so many have benefited from. Since the end of World War II, we will continue to put forth every effort to ensure freedom, stability, security of sea lanes around the world, including in areas where piracy, terrorism and other illegal activities threaten the safe passage of goods and people. Today with the commissioning of the USS Higbee, we add one more highly visible extremely capable warship to our fleet. The construction outfitting and arming of USS Higbee is just one of several investments that we are making to bolster our service fleet in the years to come. Today. We have over 70 ships under contract 55 in construction. It’s impressive. We’re investing tens of billions of dollars into shipbuilding munitions, procurement, research and development of future platforms and capabilities. It is in this way that we will sharpen our competitive edge and improve fleet rid and enhance our war fighting competency. We look forward to welcoming other high end warships into our fleet soon including our first flight, three early burke destroyer, the Jack Lucas to be commissioned later this year. Additionally, construction on the first of our constellation class frigates, the US S constellation has also begun and as mentioned by Admiral Gil Day, we continue to experiment with unmanned surface vessels to determine what missions they are best suited for and how to integrate them with our manned platforms. I would not be surprised if in the near future, the USS Higbee will sail alongside these unmanned platforms as part of a true hybrid fleet. As we all know, our navy is more than just systems and platforms. However, our sailors are our greatest strength and we want to ensure that we have done everything possible to prepare them. This includes building training centers ashore, focused on simulating situations that they may encounter at sea, giving them opportunities to learn and grow before they actually get underway. The investments and the initiatives that we are undertaking to transform and increase the capabilities of our surface fleet directly support Admiral Gilda’s navigation plan as we build, maintain, train and equip a combat credible dominant naval force to strengthen our strategic partnerships, deter conflict and have called upon win our nation’s wars. Our fleet at above and below the surface must be ready to deter and if required prevail in conflict against our adversaries, we must get it right because the American people, all of you trust us, you require us to do so. We have no other option. And every day across the globe, thousands of those same Americans including our sailors and marines, they wake up, they put on their uniform and they do their duty just as Higbee and her fellow nurses did during World War One for Lena. That role was to tend to the wounded, saving the lives of countless of her fellow Americans during World War One for the officers and the sailors who served aboard the first Pig B it was sailing through the India Pacific conducting combat operations during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War as we fought alongside our allies to preserve the freedoms of millions. I cannot tell you what challenges the second USS Pig and her crew will face in the months and years ahead. However, what I can tell you with absolute certainty is that they are ready for. She is a warrior. She is a warrior. I thank you all again for joining us here. May God bless our sailors, our marines, our civilians and their families and may God bless America. Thank you. Thank you, Secretary Del Toro. We are delighted to have our navy’s senior nurse as our principal speaker, Rear Admiral Cynthia Keener was commissioned in Sin in 1991 operationally. She served as the senior nurse with the first force service support group in Fallujah, Iraq providing direct casualty care during the height of combat operations at the busiest role, two medical facility in support of operation Iraqi freedom and operation vigilant resolve the first battle of Fallujah. She also served as the senior medical officer and ultimately is the executive officer of the provincial Reconstruction Team Coast Afghanistan as commanding officer at naval Hospital, Okinawa Japan. She directly supported forward deployed navy and marine forces and theater operational plans in Indo as Deputy Chief Operations Plans and Readiness Bureau of Medicine and surgery headquarters. She ensured navy medicine’s successful surgery response and led novel adaptive naval force solutions to the SARS COV two global pandemic in June 2020. Rear Admiral Keener was appointed as the 26 director of the Navy Nurse Corps. She currently serves as commander, naval Medical Forces support command. Ladies and gentlemen, Rear Admiral Cynthia Keener. Good morning when you have been asked to deliver the principal marks at the commissioning ceremony for our navy’s newest warship and you will follow the chief of naval operations who by the way, just put the step up here so I could be seen. Thank you, sir and the Secretary of the Navy. You do what every navy nurse knows to do in any personal moment of anticipation and exhilaration. You take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth, you check your own pulse and then you commit. That is where I find myself in this moment making history with each of you. Thank you, Mister Secretary and Admiral Gilda for your trust. And this honor, distinguished guests, ship sponsors, captain, crew, living descendants of Lena Sutcliffe Higbee and all present here to witness the commissioning of this mighty navy warship. Welcome and again. Good morning and to our nation’s beloved Navy Nurse Corps. Happy birthday. Thank you at only 115 years young. You are one of the greatest enhancements to the fighting strength of our navy over the past 247 years of its rich history. Today marks my last day as the 26 Director of the US Navy Nurse Corps I and the nearly 4000 active and reserve professionals I represent will forever feel connected to this moment in history and words cannot fully express our gratitude for our presence and representation. Thank you. On this day, I recognize that I am here in no small part because of the vision initiative and conspicuous achievements of this great warship’s namesake. Two years ago, along with many here today, I was present for the Christening and today feels like a very warm though. I’m grateful for this cloud cover and breeze and welcome family reunion in 19 oh eight, Lena Sutcliffe Higbee earned her position as one of the original sacred 20 Navy nurses establishing our cops as the second superintendent. She led the Navy Nurse Corps with awe inspiring distinction. And this morning, we celebrate her legacy and in honoring her selfless service, we ensure that the permanence of her spirit is breathed into every space and crevice of this magnificent vessel as she comes to life. The story of Lena Higbee is the story of past, present and future Navy nurses and the undeniable inseparable role of the Navy nurse in defense of our nation. Higbee understood in the context of world War and a pandemic that nursing’s presence on the front and in the fight is as essential to victory as any other element of modern war fighting with uncommon vision and valor. Superintendent Higbee pursued credible standing for the all-female Navy and Earth Corps fighting within the institution against overt discrimination and for the common basic features that we take for granted of military service, including pay, rank housing, and even uniforms. I am personally grateful and we are in a better place in our Navy because of the efforts of Lena Higbee, former Navy Secretary, the honorable Ray Mavis, as well as our current Navy Secretary and C who continue to champion in both policy and advocacy, the rich opportunities available to all who commit to naval service. Lena Higbee anticipated the insatiable need for nursing care and through strategic partnership ensured that a surge of 8000 Red Cross nurses would be trained immunized battle ready for the immediate mobilization and also available to the returning casualties of world war one and the pandemic. Lena Higbee nurses proved their competence and their meddle bearing full witness to the unspeakable horrors of warfare while rendering compassionate care to the ill, gravely injured and mortally wounded. Today, we look to our future similarly, alongside our medical colleagues with comparable drive and determination and just as our fleet, we adapt and evolve rapidly to meet the now and future challenges we face together unified in mission purpose. In his remarks, Admiral Gilda anchored on Lena’s undeniable commitment and call to active service today in the crisis of a national nursing shortage Navy nurses hear that same call and continue to be moved and inspired to serve nurses today, have any number of options for employment. Those who choose a career in this uniform, make the same authentic commitment that Lena did service is indeed enough and it is certainly why I am still here. Lena Higbee was only 37 years old when she began her 11 year tenure as the superintendent of the fledgling Navy Nurse Corps. Her husband, a lieutenant colonel in the United States Marine Corps died the same year. In 19 8, Lena could have faded quickly into life as a serviceman’s widow instead, she fought to serve in her own right. In her time, it was with eyes wide open, facing challenge and sacrifice, both known and unknown yet she persisted and prevailed. I was the same age as Lena and a lieutenant commander when I deployed to Fallujah Iraq as a family nurse practitioner, medical augment and the senior nurse of Bravo surgical company. During the months of intense fighting at the front lines of military operations, our 100 person team rendered round the clock care to countless wounded marines, soldiers, allies and those unfortunate innocents caught in the crosshairs of war, including civilians, mothers and their Children. There is no question that my experiences in Fallujah confirmed my resolve and career long commitment to serve the eight additional nurses on our team represented distinct nursing specialties and diverse clinical backgrounds. Each of us was utilized to our full capacity and indelibly changed by our experiences. Secretary Del Toro has acknowledged in indeed, we do not know what the crew of USS. Lena Sutcliffe Higbee D D 123 will face in her future. On behalf of all Navy nurses, past, present and future, I pledge to you today, our faithful enduring service and support, present and accountable Navy nurses have and will rush toward the battle with you and answer every call and deliver competent compassionate care, whatever the mission and wherever there is need because Lena Higbee got it right. Navy nurses have served every in every armed conflict aboard ships in the air and on land around the globe. Responding to both war and humanitarian crisis and disaster relief. Navy nurses have been held as enemy prisoners of war and many have made the ultimate sacrifice to our nation during armed conflict operations. We are honored today to have two Vietnam war veteran nurses in our presence. Can we please just give them a round of applause?
Thank you. During my own career. The buildup and surge deployments of operation Iraqi freedom and operation enduring freedom, employed thousands of military nurses. Navy nurses deployments in support of OIF and OEF were similar in ways to Vietnam. That is most of the nurses who deployed did so as individual augments, bringing leadership innovation and myriad nursing specialties to the battlefronts, caring for patients from the point of illness or injury through aeromedical evacuation and on into rehabilitation. In the two decades, spanning 1991 to 2020 just over 4000 active component Navy nurses representing all navy nursing specialties met the call of our nation with cumulative days deployed totaling 2192 years. Our reserve forces were additive for the duration. The COVID pandemic of our time represented our most recent surge demand and navy nurses were again on the front lines with other nurses in our health care system, from medical departments on ships at sea to overseas hospitals, emergency rooms and right here at home in makeshift care sites and civilian medical facilities augmenting the care for our citizenry. In 2022 nearly a quarter of our navy nurses deployed through the relentless demand in both garrison and operational settings in the past 10 years, just a decade, your Navy nurse corps has rapidly evolved and adapted just like the fleet along with science, technology and highly specialized education and skills to meet all the demands in this rapidly changing and complex domains of our global service environment. In 2011, only 23 of our Navy nurses had earned their doctorate degree. The doctoral level of education is now the academic standard for many of our advanced practice nurses. In one short decade, over 230 nurses have now earned their doctorate degree, representing a 10 fold increase and 33% of the current Navy Nurse Corps holds a master’s degree or above. While these data are undeniable and impressive, the most important part and attributes of your Navy nurse cops are not so easily described or quantified. I am referencing the core essence, the substance and the heart of your basic model Navy nurse. I am referencing the intimate moments between patient and nurse where incalculable joy, pain, suffering, healing, health, hope, fear, acceptance. Indeed, any aspect of humanity that you might describe exists surrounded by the warm, calming, comfort of compassion, empathy and care. It is looking into the eyes of a mortally wounded marine as he is whisked away to the operating room knowing that in the next 24 hours, humble and somber service, brothers or sisters will deliver the worst possible news to a family. It is caring for a laboring mother and then comforting her and her spouse as they reconcile the facts of a premature birth and begin to manage their unspeakable loss and grief. It is acknowledging the stress and isolation of a prolonged at sea period when your shipmate is in crisis and you listen, hold a hand and cry together without judgment. These are the qualities which undergird and inspire each navy nurse’s loyal, dedication to every patient, every hour, every day, without rest or respite from the obligations of selflessness and personal sacrifice. Truly, I am describing the same selfless service and substance embodied in Lena Sutcliffe Higbee and her charge to our original Navy Nurses. It is unfailing and it persists today. Every Navy nurse owes Lena our gratitude through her vision. She established the foundational tenets of our core transcendent through time and palpable. Still today, your Navy Nurses are laser focused to achieve competency at every level of education and practice to prioritize operational readiness as their highest obligation and to preserve the commitment to building capacity for the future Lena Higbee recognized and permanently established the sacred duty of Navy nurses to train our hospital corpsmen, knowing that their competent application of nursing skills would extend the reach of life saving care to distant battle sites. This duty has never diminished as I stand here before you, a direct descendant of Lena Higbee S Navy Nurse Corps leadership lineage. I remain humbled and inspired with integrity, pride and determined action. I commit to all as she did before me. Our Navy Nurse Corps officers stand ready and alongside, we fairly go into harm’s way with and for our brothers and sisters in arms and faithful service to our nation. We care for the ill and the injured wherever and whenever we are called, we lead and prevail through every challenge and any adversity. Superintendent Higbee legacy is an heroic account of a fearless pioneer, a leader among men and women, an advocate and agent for necessary for change. A visionary, a teacher, a scientist, an author, an innovator, a strategist, a navy nurse, the officers and crew of Lena Sutcliffe Higbee D G 123 will come to know and be inspired by Lena Higbee, relentless strength as they embrace and embody her spirit. I share your inspiration for all that she is and has yet to become, make no mistake. Lena Sutcliffe Higbee will care for you. She will honor you by her name and in return, you will carry out your mission orders with selfless service to our nation. And in so doing, you will preserve her timeless and immortal legacy, Beatrix Ila. She is indeed a warrior and also forever a navy nurse. Thank you very much. Thank you, Admiral Keener Del Toro. I would be honored if you had now placed Lena Sutcliffe Higbee in commission. On behalf of the President United States, I direct you to place the Higbee in commission. Thank you, Secretary Del Toro, Executive Officer hoist the colors and commission, pen it. All right. Ship’s company. The commission pennant in professional national navies began to take form late in the 17 th century. All ships at that time were sailing ships and it was often difficult to tell a naval ship from merchantmen. Navies began to adopt long narrow pennants to be flown by their ships at the main mast head to distinguish themselves from merchant ships. The commissioned pennant will fly continuously until the ship is decommissioned. Ladies and gentlemen, please rise. I direct your attention to the ship’s mast as we hoist the colors and commission Tennant quartermaster hoist the colors and commission pendant captain, the colors and commission pennant are flying proudly over us. Lena Suli. Very well. Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated. I will now read my orders from commander, naval military personnel command to commander Douglas Brayton, United States Navy subject beer’s order number 200401. April 2022. When directed by reporting senior detached from present duty and report to pre commissioning unit, Lena Suli as commanding officer upon commissioning of USS Lena Suc report for duty as commanding officer, Admiral Gilda United States ship Lena Sutliff is in commission and I am in command. Gentlemen, thank you, sir. Executive officer set the watch. All right, sir, mark the deck set the first watch. The officer of the deck is the commanding officer’s direct representative and while on watch is responsible for the safe operation of the ship and crew. The long glass is the traditional symbol of an officer of the deck’s authority in a ship of the line. We are honored to have Lena Sutcliffe Higbee, great, great nephew and niece, Mister Peter Verbier and Mrs. Pearl Salters with us today. They will pass the long glass to our first officer of the deck. Lieutenant junior grade, Aah Beason from Cincinnati Ohio. The petty officer of the watch is cryptologic technician, first class petty officer Hazel Krank from Panama City Beach Florida. The messenger of the watch is Sonar technician, third class petty Officer Miranda laps from Aliquippa Pennsylvania. And the boast that made of the watch is Boson made first class Anthony Crowder from Huntsville, Alabama set the watch on deck section. One sir, the watch is set very well details forward. March captain, the watch is set very well. The spirit of a US navy warship is the embodiment of her sponsor. As you may have noticed, we have three sponsors and therefore three times the enthusiasm enjoyed by most ships, Miss Louisa Dixon, MS Virginia Munford and Miss Picket Wilson christened the ship in Pascagoula, Mississippi on April 21st, 2021, imbued this ship with their charm and grace. Ladies, I would be honored if you would give the order to man our ship and bring her to life, officers and crew of the US S man, our ship and bring her to life. Ladies and gentlemen, the crew of us Lena Sutliff Higbee salutes you. We are proud to serve in America’s Navy. Lena Sutliff could be ready to, will the guests please be seated?
Captain US, Lena Sutcliffe Higbee is manned and ready. Very well. Commodore Min USS Lena Sutcliffe Higbee is manned and ready and reports for duty. Ma’am Secretary Del Toro, request permission to break your flag, sir. Captain, you have permission to break my flag, sir. Executive officer, break the flag of the Secretary of the Navy. A sir, quartermaster, break the flag of the Secretary of the Navy. Captain, the flag of The Secretary of the Navy is flying proudly over us. Lena Sutcliffe. Hi, very well. Ladies and gentlemen, Commander Douglas Braton, United States Navy commanding officer US S Lena Suli. Thank you, ship’s company parade. Rest, you know, deep breath admiral keener, but congressman Mr. Secretary Admiral Gilda Ed Minner, distinguished guests, fellow citizens and of course, Ting Higbee Huah, why are you here?
That’s the first question that Lena Higbee had to answer when she reported for duty to naval Portsmouth Hospital in 19 oh nine, sergeant lays the commanding officer of the hospital had called for extra support. He was expecting a man and she was not the next months and years would define her career and the course of naval history. And if you have any questions how her story turned out, well, you’re standing witness to it and now you’re part of it. If there’s anything I want us all to take away from commissioning of this ship is that we all have the ability to make a difference and make an impact whether you are the first group of 20 female nurses in the navy, a new sailor to the service or someone just wanting to see what a ship commissioning is. We all have the ability and choice to make a difference aboard. We have the C OS Box, right?
This is the commanding officer’s suggestion box and this is the one place where the crew can put anything they want in there. And they know at some point I will read it as you can see, this can be a very dangerous box. Well, we’ve had a few captains calls aboard and the captain’s call is a time where I gather the crew up and we talk about the schedule. I recognize sailors for the hard work, give out awards and I usually open up for questions at the end and I always try to end these with something motivational. And I’ve been saying, hey, just remember it’s as easy as 123. It’s as easy as 123123. That’s also the number on the bow right there. That’s pretty good. Right. Yeah, my attempt at motivation. Well, shortly after that I checked the C O suggestion box and in it was a note and it read, do you skipper?
Please please go see the dock. That’s their doctor award. I am worried that something is wrong. You see, we’ve been working very long days. I show up in the dark. I leave in the dark. I’ve been doing this for 90 days, sir. That’s a nine and a zero. And I think you are the only one aboard that thinks this job is easier than counting to three. Signed a very concerned sailor. They were right. We forget sometimes how important it is to recognize the struggle, the hard work done, right?
The efforts that turn steel to keel to the beautiful hull around us. The journey that takes a crew of 20 sailors to 300 plus from junior to season and into the tenacious and persistent warriors. Also around us. Commissioning is emerging of body, mind and soul of ship sailors and namesake. Here you will find the most advanced war fighting system developed to date. Here. You will find frosty sailors from all over that are the heart and soul of a fierce dedicated team who have faced adversity and strive valiantly here. You will find the trail blazing spirit of our namesake who revolutionized and redefine the role of women in military history, oversaw the warrior prowess of the leap and Lena and now stands here with us today reminding us that you too, no matter who you are or where you come from, that you too can make a difference and you two matter and that is why we are here today. Superintendent Higbee once said, no greater danger can come to a nurse than contentment with easy duty. And the belief that the completion of their training is the final goal. I think she would be pleased with our progress. And I know the only answer she’d accept is ma’am. We’re just getting started to my crew, my team, the warriors. What can I say?
Other than thank you. It has been a journey with hard work, hard truth and hard laughs. I’m impressed every day with your grit, dedication and heart as we get real and get better again. And again, thank you for your trust, your belief, the Scuttle Butt chats and most importantly, the p fist bumps you have kept me going during the toughest days and I hope at some point I have done the same for you. There is no team. I’d rather sail with. Finally to our sponsors, Louise A Gin and Pickett. You are our family now too. My team and I are humbled to have such fine, strong role models to aspire to be the warrior spirit. You have imbued is clearly evident through your outstanding accomplishments in your respective professions and families. You know that know that we sail with you always and that like superintendent Higbee and the sacred 20 before us, we will take any challenge head on and may our legacy live up to those first female nurses that not only changed the lives of those they cared for but changed the course of military history. It is my privilege to report to you that the newest, biggest and steeliest member of the sacred 20 is ready for duty. She is a warrior. Thank you. Chips company. The guest. Please rise to remain standing for the benediction that will be offered by chaplain angle. Let us pray eternal father. Strong to save. We praise you for breathing life into this mighty worship today. Guard guide bless and keep every sailor who will go to sea on board the USS Lena Sutcliffe Higbee for generations to come. May every sailor see your mighty works upon the waters and sail. Knowing that they are never alone and never forgotten for, they sail with the hopes of our nation, the prayers and support of every individual here and the love of families and friends around the world. God of hosts who train our hands for battle. Yet we pray for peace as she sails, make Higbee a stronghold and fortress for those who live within her home, make her an instrument of peace in our time and a deterrent to those who seek to harm or enslave others. When the day comes that our nation calls upon Higbee to sail into harm’s way, make her bold and courageous, display an extraordinary heroism by continuing to fight when others no longer can preserve us from the dangers of the sea and the violence of every enemy. Give us courage and faith to meet every joy and challenge before us and go with us as we depart this place of celebration, kindling our spirits for service to you, our nation and each other bless us. Keep us and make your face shine upon us and give us peace today and forever more. Amen.