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USS Constitution Honors Vietnam War Vets Underway

by Petty Officer 3rd Class Casey S Scoular

USS Constitution and her crew took more than 200 Vietnam War-era Veterans underway from the ship’s berth in Charlestown, Massachusetts, May 17, in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.

The event is in concert with the National Vietnam War Commemoration, and demonstrates our commitment to highlighting the service of U.S. Armed forces during the Vietnam War, and to thanking and honoring veterans, their families and our allies.

“One of the special memories myself and the crew will take away from today is the interaction—the ability to hear the stories and relive some of the moments with some of the Vietnam Veterans here aboard USS Constitution,” said Cmdr. Nathaniel R. Shick, USS Constitution’s 75th commanding officer. “As a small token of our appreciation we were able to award those Vietnam War veterans with the Vietnam War Commemoration lapel pin, a very small symbol of our undying gratitude to their generation.”

Slipping her berth with 390 veterans and their guests, Constitution navigated down the Charles River Basin out to Boston’s Inner Harbor. 

“I was looking forward to the underway for a long time,” said retired Army Col. Richard Matlak, a Vietnam War-era veteran. “I think that being invited on the underway was quite an honor by the Navy, not just for me, but for all of us Vietnam veterans.” 

Constitution fired a 21-gun salute which was returned by the Concord Independent Battery near Fort Independence on Castle Island. Fort Independence is a state park that served as a defensive position for Boston Harbor from 1634 to 1962. 

The ship also fired an additional 17 rounds as she passed U.S. Coast Guard Sector Boston, the former site of Edmund Hartt’s shipyard where Constitution was built. 

Each round of this salute honored the 16 states that comprised The United States when Constitution launched in 1797 and one in honor of the ship herself.

“I am absolutely grateful to the Navy for letting us come on Constitution,” said Mark Weston, a Vietnam War-era, Army veteran. “The underway was way beyond my expectation. I enjoyed my experience thoroughly.”

USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, played a crucial role in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812, actively defending sea lanes from 1797 to 1855.

Designated America’s Ship of State, Constitution and her crew engage in community outreach and education about the ship’s history and the importance of naval power to more than 500,000 visitors each year.

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