Mesa Verde to be Commissioned in Panama City
Contact: Tessy Shirakawa, 970-529-4628
The LPD-19 Mesa Verde will be commissioned at 11:00 a.m. (CST) December 15th in Panama City, Florida, officially becoming the USS Mesa Verde. Numerous special events surrounding the commissioning will take place in Panama City prior to the commissioning ceremony. Many representatives from the State of Colorado and Mesa Verde National Park will be in attendance. A live web cast will be active during the ceremony and can be observed at: http://www.wmbb.com/gulfcoastwest/mbb/news/special_reports/dec07/mesa_verde_commissioning.html
As a tribute to the ship’s legacy, an educational exhibition will take place from 8:00 am to 10:00 am and 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm at the Gulf Coast Community College. There will be exhibits, interactive educational activity stations, interactive educational learning environments, and films, about the park and Native American history and culture, and an exhibit by Northrup Grumman about construction of the ship. This is a celebration and tribute to Native American cultures across the nation, and especially the 24 tribes associated with Mesa Verde National Park.
The Mesa Verde was christened on January 15, 2005 by Mrs. Linda Campbell, wife of former Colorado US Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell in Pascagoula, MS. A commissioning ceremony is when the Mesa Verde will become a unit of the operating forces of the United States Navy. A commissioning is an elaborate event, steeped in tradition, which dignifies the occasion as the ship “Comes Alive” and Mesa Verde becomes USS Mesa Verde.
How did Mesa Verde get her name many people ask? “Mesa Verde is a jewel of our national park system that celebrates the extraordinary beauty and diversity of that region and our nation,” stated then Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig in 2000. “The real richness of Mesa Verde and that of our country’s naval service, however, lies in the people – the remarkable legacy of their past and a future with great promise. The naming of USS Mesa Verde establishes a strong and fundamental link between this nation and those who serve and truly value that bond.”
The Prospective Commanding Officer and ship’s crew develop a motto that is part of the ship’s crest. For the Mesa Verde, the motto “Courage Teamwork Tradition” reflects the courage, teamwork and tradition of the Ancestral Puebloans who lived in the Mesa Verde region and built the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park – similar to the attributes displayed by the 21st Century Navy/Marine Corps team.
The ship's crest is designed by the Army’s Institute of Heraldry and based upon the ship’s namesake with assistance from the ship’s Prospective Commanding Officer. It represents the ship’s crew, Navy, Marine Corps, the park, the Four Corners region, and our country’s Native American heritage.
The shield’s arrowhead shape and Cliff Palace representation reflect Mesa Verde National Park. The yucca plant represents the Mesa Verde region and denotes hardiness and survival. The compass rose symbolizes worldwide capabilities and expertise. In the crest the green plateau represents Mesa Verde’s name, while the bald eagle symbolizes the United States of America; the juniper sprig held by the eagle is native to the region and bears 24 berries, each for the modern Indian tribes, who trace their ancestry to the Mesa Verde region. The trident denotes authority and mastery at sea while the Naval officer’s sword and Marine Corps mameluke symbolize teamwork and cooperation between the Navy and Marine Corps.
Stepping the Mast is an ancient tradition where coins are placed under or near the mast when the mast is installed. The coins are intended to bring the ship good luck. The Navy and shipyard continue this tradition today and usually use coins, which add up to the ship’s hull number, e.g. 19 cents for LPD 19. Stepping the Mast for Mesa Verde was hosted on January 14, 2005 by the shipyard. The mast stepping was particularly significant as Mesa Verde is the first ship to dedicate her Advanced Enclosed Mast/Sensor system. Coins, mementos and artifacts used in the event included:
- One 1969 Dime: From Mrs. Linda Campbell, ship’s sponsor, representing the birth year of their son, Colin
- One 1965 Nickel: From Mesa Verde’s Pre-commissioning Crew and Prospective Commanding Officer Commander Shawn Lobree for the Sailors and Marines who will crew and embark in USS Mesa Verde. The date represents the launch year for USS Denver LPD 9, the last LPD class ship with a Colorado namesake
- One 1906 Penny: From Mesa Verde National Park Superintendent Larry Wiese, representing the year the national park was established
- One 1916 Penny: From the National Park Service, representing the year the National Park Service was established
- One 1996 Penny: From the Navy’s LPD 17 Program Office, PMS 317 in PEO Ships, representing the year in which the contract for building the first LPD 17 class ships was awarded including the option to build Mesa Verde
- One 2002 Penny: From Northrop Grumman Ship System representing the year in which construction started on Mesa Verde
- Senator and Mrs. Campbell donated a distinctive piece of jewelry; a ring made by the Senator using images from the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings.
Artifacts: Collectively, these artifacts are symbolic of the sky, land, and water so important to the Native Americans and their ancestors
- A Native American “sprinkler” used to sprinkle water as part of the ceremony; made from fibers of the yucca plant and decorated with coral, turquoise, abalone seashells, a turkey feather, and an eagle feather.
- A handmade Zia pot, made from clay and painted with natural materials that will have contained the water from a scared spring in Mesa Verde National Park
- A handmade buckskin pouch containing an obsidian arrowhead to guide the ship safely in the future
- A sun symbol from the Pueblo Zia
For additional information about the USS Mesa Verde go to: www.mesa-verde.navy.mil
Did You Know?
On a snowy December day in 1888, while ranchers Richard Wetherill and Charlie Mason searched Mesa Verde’s canyons for stray cattle, they unexpectedly came upon Cliff Palace for the first time. The following year, the Wetherill brothers and Mason explored an additional 182 cliff dwellings.