By John Petersen
The following is an ‘obituary’ I penned concerning my last ship, USS Halsey CG-23. Wrote this years ago, after I found out Halsey had been decommed the year after I left.
In 1959, the authorization was given to build another ship. Meaning no less than job security at the time for countless engineers, welders, crane operators, electricians, the list goes on, this order was to them, part of the routine, finish one job and start another. Puts food on the table, affords a comfortable life for the family. a good career to get into.
The ship that is ordered, not surprisingly, will be similar to those that were constructed before her, but as with all other ‘clones’, there will be differences, slight upgrades, improvements if you will. But as long as the prints are true, she’ll become a seaworthy vessel, her capabilities beyond her predecessors. She’ll be faster, a bit more streamlined, her armament in keeping with the demands of global needs. She’ll be as well protected as can be made, for her crew will depend on her to ensure their safety, this crew that will shed tears, hugs, and kisses as they prepare to ride this vessel away from home for parts that, to many aboard will be unknown, for lengths of time most will not be used to.
Everything about her as she is being pieced together must be perfect, no room for mistakes, no room for anything that would be detrimental to her crew be left out. She must be strong, forbearing, able to defend not only the battle group she’ll be assigned to but also herself and her crew, for this ship will be home for her crew, the one place where they will work, eat, sleep, and relax. Basically, their lives within several hundred feet.
She’ll be formidable in appearance, her profile well-known worldwide. She’ll find herself in the heat of global tensions several times in her life, always proving to all that she’s there when needed. She’ll have every bit of technology available at her birth to give her crew the upmost advantage in any situation said crew may be faced with. In no way, through her design, will she allow her crew to be endangered, and she will give all she has to ensure this.
As this ship is built for the sole purpose of defense and protection of the seas, she will also have within her design comforts for those that will become her, for want of a better term, circulatory system. The requisite berthing spaces, of course, modern galley and messing areas, the ships store, ships library, all may be small in size but for extended months at sea large in stature. Closed-circuit TV. Maybe even satellite TV to catch the Super Bowl while in the Gulf.
Those that build her, they know, that she has a shelf life and that one day her time will come. They know that she’ll sail countless nautical miles, fight countless battles. They, as well as you and I, know that not all is perfect, that throughout her life there will be lives lost within her shell, yet those lives will not be lost in vain, rather they will be valiantly sacrificed in the needed effort to save this ship and their shipmates from an untimely demise. One would think that this thought alone is the major driving force of those that put this ship together make sure everything is as close to perfect as they can make it.
Throughout her years defending this country, Thousands will have done their designated jobs to keep her going strong. Each and every one of these thousands will, when called to duty at yet another ship or shore station, carry forever with them the memories of their shipmates, those who for that short period of time became no less than family. Countless numbers will keep in touch with others, countless will most likely not. Regardless of that fact, all who serve upon her decks are connected forever, period.
In time, her end will come, simply outdated and technologically behind the times. She’ll have been upgraded several times in her life, but life itself will ultimately overtake her. With tears in the eyes of many who kept her heart beating, she’ll be retired, her plants never to steam again, the heart stopped forever. She’ll be replaced by newer ships, each filled with the latest in technological wonders, some of which have probably yet to be discovered. But she was advanced for her time, remember that she was the new replacement for the ships before her. Yet it still hurts.
Proudly, some ships become museums, an open venue for those who have never been aboard a ship, to provide a bit of history for the masses. Others, sadly, are unceremoniously cut apart, for a profit to individuals who care not one bit the history or legacy of the ship they’re torching. Then there are the ships that, after proudly serving their time, are sent to the seafloor, a ‘burial at sea’ if you will, which is the highest honor these vets could receive. A send-off this particular ship should well be afforded.
Conceived by the ink of a pen in 1959, roughly 35 years of distinguished service, and taken from the fleet 28 Jan 1994. Thousands of proud individuals made her the ship she was, and in our memories always will be. She was a force to be reckoned with, her mere presence anywhere she went was never forgotten, and never will be.
MM1 John Petersen, EMO2 LPO ’90-93