Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, criticized by Congress and veterans for some of his untraditional ship-namings, took the old-school route on Wednesday by naming three destroyers after war heroes.
The next three Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers will be named after Navy Lt. John Finn, a World War II combatant; Marine Corps Pfc. Henry Johnson of the Vietnam war; and Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who fought and died in Iraq.
“Finn, Johnson and Peralta have all been recognized with some of our nation’s highest awards,” Mr. Mabus said.
“I want to ensure their service and sacrifice will be known by today’s sailors and Marines, and honored for several decades to come by a new generation of Americans and people from around the world who will come in contact with these ships.”
Mr. Mabus has been criticized for naming four ships after two fellow Democrats and two social activists, including labor leader Cesar Chavez. Congress had ordered a Pentagon inquiry into how ships are named.
Urged on by Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, Congress recommended to Mr. Mabus in this year’s defense budget act that he honor Sgt. Peralta with a ship-naming.
“This is a very special day for Sgt. Peralta’s family, in particular,” Mr. Hunter said. “They have waited patiently for the Navy and the Department of Defense to recognize the actions of Sgt. Peralta, which are consistent with the Medal of Honor - an award he was nominated for but was wrongly denied.
“A ship in his honor is a fitting tribute to Sgt. Peralta and other Marines of his generation, and will carry his legacy around the world.”
Sgt. Peralta posthumously received the Navy Cross, the second-highest honor a Marine can receive, for smothering a grenade with his body during a 2004 fire fight in Fallujha.
Lt. Finn received the Medal of Honor from Navy Adm. Chester Nimitz for displaying “magnificent courage in the face of almost certain death” during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Pfc. Ralph Henry Johnson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for hurling himself on an explosive in Vietnam.
In two other actions, Mr. Mabus reverted to tradition and named the next two littoral combat ships after U.S. locations, Sioux City and Omaha.
Last week, he announced that a littoral combat ship would be named after former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who has made a courageous recovery from wounds suffered in 2011 shooting in Tucson Arizona.
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