Christening Ceremony of the Fast Combat Support Ship BRIDGE
San Diego, California
March 28, 1998
Secretary Douglass, Vice Admiral Krekich, Rear Admiral Sargent, Mr. Vortmann, Mr. Atkins, Mr. Kaskin, Captain Welch, Captain Williams, and of course, Alice Maroni, who was my deputy when I was the comptroller, and also last, but certainly most important in my life, my wife Julie. I welcome all of you. I must say, I am the price you all have to pay in order to get my wife to be the sponsor of this vessel.
I am very pleased to be here today. I am honored to be with you on this christening day for USS Bridge.
In a few moments this mighty ship will be christened and begin to come to life, thanks to the vision and commitment of the leaders of this country, to the skill and the ingenuity of the workers here at NASSCO -- and I will say more about that later -- and the determination of a country that knows its freedom and prosperity depend on a steady vigilance.
We mark this day in a time of uneasy calm. The events of the past four months remind us again that we live in perilous times. On this day—at this very hour—American sailors and ships steadily patrol the waters of the Persian Gulf, prepared to enforce the international sanctions directed by the United Nations against a dangerous and quarrelsome Iraq.
American soldiers this hour bring peace to a scarred Bosnia, permitting children to experience a safety that we all enjoy and too often ignore here in United States.
Marines this hour stand watch in Guantanamo, quietly maintaining an outpost of freedom in a still captive land.
Airmen this day fly missions in every time zone, guarding and supplying our forces in distant lands.
America stands today as the world's only super power. What makes us unique, however, is not our unmatched military strength. What sets us apart is the fact that America is the world's only power that claims no foreign soil except that needed to bury its fallen heroes who lived and died so that others might be free.
This great ship thus embodies our hopes and aspirations, not to conquer foreign lands, but to insure that our people and people in every other country might live in peace and gain in prosperity.
I salute this day all those who helped bring forth the USS Bridge.
We congratulate the Navy for its foresight and determination to bring to the fleet this powerful new combat supply ship.
We congratulate the men and women of National Steel and Shipbuilding Company who built this magnificent ship. We know the pride and the joy and the patriotism you feel this day. And over these last ten years of struggle it has been remarkable what you have accomplished, and we salute you for that.
We congratulate the City of San Diego and celebrate the long and rich partnership between the Navy and this Navy town.
We congratulate the crew of USS Bridge that has worked so hard to see this day arrive.
The Bridge will join the fleet as one of the Navy's largest, fastest, and best-equipped combat logistics ships. She well deserves the name Bridge, and will continue the legacy established by her namesake, Horatio Bridge who was a pioneer in naval logistics.
Horatio Bridge revolutionized naval logistics. Under his stewardship during the Civil War, the Navy developed a comprehensive system for tactical resupply of warships at sea that to this day sets it apart from all other Navies in the world.
As everyone knows, this is the second naval warship to carry the name "Bridge". The first USS Bridge served our country honorably for over thirty years earlier in this century. We are honored to have several crew members from the first USS Bridge here with us today. And I would ask, would you please stand so all of us may thank you for your service to this country.
As we christen this ship today, no one should mistake the importance of this event.
The popular imagination of the Navy is filled with images of fighter pilots who are catapulted off carriers or cruise missiles launched from destroyers or submarines. But the true strength of the Navy lies in its quiet, determined vigilance in peacetime. America's diplomacy depends on this quiet, persistent vigilance. And that vigilance, the staying power of our forward deployed forces, depends singularly on our supply forces, and ships like USS Bridge.
To you, crew members of USS Bridge, let no one suggest to you that your mission is secondary. America's Navy would wither in days without you. And this brings an enormous responsibility on your shoulders. You must succeed. You must excel.
On this day of celebration, you the crew of the Bridge, I know feel joy and pride. In months and years to come this joy will be replaced by other emotions. I suspect that there will be days and nights when your hearts will be heavy with loneliness. Far from home and months away from family and friends, you will be tested. There will be days when you will question yourself and ask why have you chosen this life.
I do not know why it's happened to you, but I do know that something in you sets you apart from your fellow Americans. You have chosen a different path—a life of service. You have chosen to become part of something big and grand and important. While others in your home towns spend their days working at the local mall, or flipping burger in a local fast food shop, you spend your days defending the United States of America. You have committed yourselves to ideas that are at once ancient and yet fresh—peace, freedom, liberty, and opportunity.
In those lonesome hours that lie ahead, remind yourselves that America's liberty depends on you.
And this day, I am given the honor to speak on behalf of Americans to say to all of you, crewmen of the bridge, and all of you who serve in this Navy and in other services, thank you. Thank you from all American's who this night will sleep safely because of your commitment. Thank you for all future generations who will see this day your example and choose in their lives a life of service. My deepest appreciation and sincerest thank you for the life that you've chosen to live. May God watch over you and may God watch over this sweet land of liberty.