CHARLESTON, SC (KSNT) – The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest Arleigh Burke-class destroyer on Saturday, May 14 in honor of a Topeka veteran.
The USS Frank E. Petersen is the newest vessel to join the U.S. Navy. The destroyer is named after Lieutenant General Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (U.S. Marine Corps Retired) who was the first African-American USMC aviator and the first African-American Marine to become a three-star general. He served two combat tours: Korea in 1953 and Vietnam in 1968. He also flew more than 350 combat missions and had over 4,000 hours in different fight and attack aircraft.
Petersen retired in 1988 after 38 years of service to his country with a variety of accolades to his name including a Purple Heart, Air Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal. He passed away in August of 2015 at the age of 83.
The ceremony held to christen the new destroyer was attended by various U.S. Navy staff, including Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, who thanked the Petersen family for their lifetime of service to the country.
“As Secretary of the Navy I contribute all that I can to make sure that you and your families are equipped for the many challenges that lie ahead,” Del Toro said. “That starts with making sure that you have the very best ship that our nation has to offer.”
The Honorable Carlos Campbell, Naval aviator and former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, was the principle speaker at the ceremony. He served alongside Petersen and spoke of his strength and dedication.
“He received a frag wound, he was treated in the field, and returned to combat,” Campbell said.
General David Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, also attended the day’s event.
“General Petersen was a man of many firsts,” Berger said. “There’s a saying that ships take on the characteristics of their namesakes, and if that’s true, then God help any adversary to ever confronts the Frank E. Petersen, Jr.”
Sponsors of the ship include Mrs. D’Arcy Ann Neller, wife of former Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert “Bob” Neller, USMC (Ret.) and the late Dr. Alicia J. Petersen, wife of Lt. Gen. Petersen who passed away in September of 2021.
The USS Frank Petersen’s commanding officer, Commander Daniel Hancock, reported the ship was ready during the ceremony. With help from Lt. Gen. Petersen’s daughters, Gayle, Dana, Lindsay and Monique, Mrs. Neller gave the traditional order to “Man our ship and bring her to life!”
“Our incredible crew takes a great deal of pride in their work,” Hancock said. “I can find no better warrior namesake than General Frank E. Petersen Jr. None of us who know his story have ever forgotten that we are the heirs of that powerful legacy, and like the General, we have committed ourselves to owning the fight and carrying his torch proudly forward. I wish to express gratitude and pride. It is my greatest professional honor to serve with each of my crew. I am proud beyond measure.”
Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are recognized as the backbone of the U.S. Navy’s surface fleet. They are known for being highly capable, multi-mission ships that can conduct a variety of operations in peace or in war.