BATH, Maine — 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 bears the name of a Marine who was awarded the Medal of Honor before his death on Iwo Jima.
Breaking a bottle on the ship’s bow for good luck was a woman who lost her brother in an ambush in Fallujah, Iraq.
The legacy and sacrifice of such Marines are never forgotten, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black told a crowd of 2,000 gathered next to the warship at Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works in Maine.
Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism while defending Henderson Field against a fierce assault by a 3,000-strong Japanese force during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942.
The New Jersey resident returned home to a hero’s welcome and a parade. But he asked to rejoin 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 heroism that day.
His 92-year-old brother Donald and others at the ceremony spoke of Basilone’s patriotism, dedication and bravery.
That included his insistence on returning to combat instead of staying safe for the remainder of the war. “He really wanted to go back,” Donald Basilone said in statement read by his niece.
Ryan Manion, whose brother, Marine 1st Lt. Travis Manion, was killed in Iraq, said both her 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 the most,” she said.
The ceremony marked a milestone in construction of the 509-foot guided-missile destroyer. Dignitaries included admirals, family members, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and Republican Sen. 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 families of fallen heroes, using her brother’s words, “If not me, then who?”
Her brother was killed by a sniper when he exposed himself to enemy fire to get an advantageous firing position and draw attention away from wounded Marines during an ambush in 2007 in Iraq.