Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi Friday, 18 November 2011 00:00
“All the sailors are in the running for the Sailor of the Year title,” said USS TR Captain Roger Curry. “Since there are 3,000 crew members, we have to pick the four of the best of the best.”
Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tyrell Morris, USS Theodore Roosevelt Public Affairs wrote about the experience at the gravesite on the ships Internet site.
He wrote: “USS Theodore Roosevelt‘s (CVN 71) Sailors of the Quarter attended a memorial service honoring the birthday of the ship’s namesake Oct. 27 in Oyster Bay.
“Sailor of the Quarter Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class (AW/SW) Justin Etheridge, Junior Sailor of the Quarter Logistics Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Phillip Allen, Bluejacket of the Quarter Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class (SW/AW) Ronnie Williams, and Rough Rider of the Quarter Culinary Specialist Seaman Rubin Shore attended the service to honor the 153rd birthday of former President Theodore Roosevelt at Youngs Memorial Cemetery.
“The annual wreath-laying ceremony has been a long-standing tradition since the Quentin Roosevelt American Legion Post No. 4 started the memorial in 1919. ”I am honored I was selected to attend such a prestigious event,” said Culinary Specialist Seaman Rubin Shore. “I learned a lot about our namesake and am honored to serve aboard TR.”
Seaman Morris said, after a tour of Sagamore Hill, Junior Sailor of the Quarter Logistics Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Phillip Allen was quoted as saying, “There is so much history in this house and I’m glad I got to visit such a great piece of history.” The USS TR has a strong connection with TR and the Oyster Bay community.
At the gravesite John Hammond, Oyster Bay town historian officiated. It was a drizzly day and the children from the Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School who usually attend the service, were absent. Instead, after the ceremony at the gravesite, the dignitaries visited the school where National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis presented a 1903 notecard written by Theodore Roosevelt to his son Quentin from Yellowstone National Park during a trip to the western states – to SHNHS Superintendent Thomas Ross.
Youngs Cemetery in Oyster Bay Cove was the place TR himself asked to be buried. His cousin Emlen Roosevelt, who had been his financial advisor, saw to purchasing two acres south of it, after TR’s death, which became the first Audubon Sanctuary, the Theodore Roosevelt Bird Sanctuary to both protect the gravesite and to create a haven for birds – TR was an amateur ornithologist.
Captain Roger Curry, navigator of the USS TR represented Captain William Hart who was in San Diego. “He is one of two officers on the ship that receives nuclear power training. The other is the XO. One of them must always be onboard the ship. The XO couldn’t come to the ceremony as he had to stay aboard. The commander was here on July 4, which has become a tradition for the town and the ship.” It was Captain Curry who said, “This year those attending are vying for the title of Sailor of the Year, which will be announced in November” It is quite an honor, he said, since there are 3,000 seamen aboard.
Isaac Kremer, Main Street Association executive director asked Captain Curry, “Where is the USS TR now?”
“It’s in pieces; it’s being overhauled in Norfolk, Virginia, our port,” answered the captain. Mr. Kremer asked if the sailors were on active duty. The Captain said, “Yes they are.” It was raining and the ceremony was beginning and there was no more time to ask for the details. They were provided by Naval News.com which explained “Approximately 2,500 Sailors serve aboard the ship, and in addition to their normal duties, they contribute about 35 percent of their day to rehabilitating the ship, which includes installing decks, painting, and refurbishing living areas,” for the three-year project.
Defense Industry Daily.com called it a “mid-life overhaul,” for the USS Theodore Roosevelt [CVN 71], which is expected to remain in service through 2036. It was built by Northrop Grumman’s Newport News sector and Commissioned on Oct. 25, 1986.
The Enterprise Pilot has reported on how the Oyster Bay-East Norwich community helped with the commissioning, outfitting the amenities for the crew; and the Theodore Roosevelt Association created an onboard TR Museum for the ship.
Many local residents have fond memories of attending the commissioning ceremonies held in Newport News. Since then, the captain and several crew members have attended the Independence Day celebration in Oyster Bay held on July 4, annually.
Since the summer of 2009, the USS TR has been getting a makeover for the work estimated at costing over $558 million.
Showing the strong relationship between the USS TR and the president himself, Naval Tody.com reported the crew’s 25th anniversary ball in Norfolk on Oct. 21, at which Executive Officer Capt. Douglas Verissimo quoted TR in his talk. He said, “It was TR sailors who brought this ship into the fleet 25 years ago; it’s our current sailors who will return TR to the fleet in 2013; and it will be TR’s future sailors who sail her into the next 25 years. To quote the man himself, ‘The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat.’ Our Sailors deserve the credit and have made this anniversary possible.”
The evening also featured a comedian, TR impersonator, and cake-cutting ceremony led by TR’s commanding officer and the ship’s youngest and oldest enlisted sailors and officers, reported NavalToday.com.
An article about the gravesite ceremony will appear in the USS TR’s newsletter Rough Rider.
At the gravesite, Mr. Hammond welcomed the participants, “On a kind of dreary day. We do this rain or shine since 1919 when the American Legion Quentin Roosevelt Post #4 began holding it.” He said it has been visited by kings and queens and dignitaries from all over the world.
Mr. Hammond introduced many of the dignitaries including TOB Receiver of Taxes Jim Stefanich; Captain Roger Curry, USS TR navigator; Lt. Com. Mike Van Horn of Naval Operation on Long Island; SHNHS Superintendent Tom Ross; and NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis.
In his comments at the gravesite, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said, “President Roosevelt stands at the pinnacle of conservation today. Every President since Roosevelt has attempted to live up to his example.” TR preserved 230 million acres of land and created the national monuments, like the Grand Canyon; Devil’s Tower and Petrified Forest, using his executive power and saying, “these are places of need of protection.” There are now over 395 units under the supervision of the NPS. “We are a model for the world for conservation. It is called America’s Best Idea”, said Mr. Jarvis.
Mr. Jarvis said he was thrilled to be responsible for the safety of the TR’s Sagamore Hill and his other great sites. They include: The birthplace in NYC; the inaugural site in Buffalo; the TR National Park in Medora, North Dakota where the Elkhorn Ranch is located; Roosevelt Island in Washington, DC; and Mt. Rushmore. [For more information on any of these sites go to; www.NPS.gov.]
“TR is a great hero to me,” said Mr. Jarvis. “It is fantastic to be here on his 153th birthday.”
Also attending the event was Neil J. Mulholland, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation, located in Washington, D.C. He said, “We support the NPS through grants. Our fund paid for the acquisition of the postcard written by TR to his son Quentin. We focus on units of the NPS. We are a congressionally charged organization to work to fund the NPS.” Mr. Mullholand said he is a fan of TR, and has been to Oyster Bay twice this year.
One of the few civilians attending the ceremony was George A. Blanthorn of Syosset, a former NYC fireman who said the last time he was at Youngs Cemetery was in April 2001 when TR was awarded the Medal of Honor. “His grandson Tweed Roosevelt was there,” he said.
“TR was a great president. We need a man like him today. He would speak softly and carry a big stick,” said Mr.Blanthorn.