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Newport, RI - October 18, 2003 - It was cold out there on Pier 2 during the early hours of the Chafee Commissioning ceremony. Perhaps the place was warmed by hearts of the over 6,000 veterans, active military, adult civilians, and school-aged children who were gathered together in this eclectic collection of people. Some came to honor the memory of a great statesman, some were on hand to celebrate the culmination of a successful defense department project, and others came to witness a very significant US Navy event.

A bit of sadness was felt that this great warship was stopping by Newport only for its commissioning; that it would not be the first of many to return to the great piers which have been left to house decommissioned war ships of past greatness. [What an irony! This ship comes to visit just as the Newport Daily News finishes its series of articles on the pull out of the fleet from Newport. The pull out that occurred when this great statesman was serving his country as the Secretary of the Navy!]

I had occasion to watch John Chafee as a young member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. Just like Jack Kennedy, John Chafee was never too ‘puffed up’ to pay attention to those of us who served at ‘lower levels’ in this society. The ceremony was a great and worthy tribute to him and his family. Sitting in the crowd, one could almost forget that this was, in some way, a ceremony about a ship and the hard work that was involved from thousands of people of different trades and professions. It was a moment of greatness on both counts.

John Chafee was once an enlisted United States Marine, an accomplishment by itself worthy of great note. Coming from his social background, he probably could have avoided this sacrifice. He later returned and served as a Marine Corps officer. It was fitting that the dedication speaker was the top officer of the United States Marine Corp.

There were many other people of great wealth, accomplishment, and importance at this event.A significant amount of time was spent as each speaker started, giving recognition and respect to those leaders. It was a celebration that recognized the greatness of not only John Chafee, but also of those who serve us today.

As these speakers took their turns, it became very obvious that their comments would include references to God. In fact, there was a military chaplain on hand to lead the official blessing.I wish that I had counted the references.

I wonder now what all of those public school children thought when they heard all of these references, in such a government-sponsored event. This could have never happened in their classrooms, on their playing fields, in their celebrations!

Where were the protesters? Where was the ACLU?

Just something to think about as the USS Chafee sails off to Hawaii – Under God!

by Peter Martin