Christening the USS Coronado
By: Susan Ring Keith
January 2012… Christmas is over; I’ve put away all the decorations and now the suitcase is out as I prepare to leave for Mobile, Ala. Austal Shipyard in Mobile is building the U.S. Navy’s newest Littoral Combat Ship, USS Coronado (LCS 4). I have been given the honor and privilege of being the ship’s sponsor. I am the one who will be breaking that bottle of champagne over the bow and officially giving the ship her name. I was nominated for this special designation by the Mayor of Coronado, Casey Tanaka, as well as dear friends, Admirals Jimmy Hogg, Bud Edney and Ed Martin, who all “put in a good word” for me. Ultimately it’s the Secretary of the Navy, though, who makes the final decision.
My connections to the Navy go back a few years. Both of my grandfathers were in the Navy’s Supply Corp. My father and step-father were classmates at the Naval Academy and both early naval aviators. My two brothers (one died on active duty) were both surface officers. Both my husband and son were also surface sailors. In addition, I have two uncles and a father-in-law who were naval officers. My fingers are crossed that with nine grandchildren, one might choose to serve in the Navy, but I’ll have to wait and see about that.
I also have a longstanding association with my hometown of Coronado, Calif. My grandmother, Belle Stewart, led the grand march at the 1888 opening of the Hotel del Coronado. Her family had been in San Diego since 1869, but my grandmother bought the family’s first home on the island. Members of the family still refer to that special little cottage on Loma Avenue as “home.”
My two brothers and I were all born in Coronado, and although we were a Navy family and moved around a lot, Coronado was always home. We spent many years of our youth in Coronado, and since 1980 I’ve been a permanent resident.
In 1966 while my mother, Eleanor Ring, was on the Coronado City Council, she was selected to serve as the sponsor for the USS Coronado (LPD 11), the previous ship to bear the name. We all traveled to Seattle for that special occasion, and then as the years went by we watched with pride as we saw all that the ship was able to accomplish. While I served on the Coronado City Council I had the opportunity to fly by Navy helicopter out to sea and land on the Coronado. The Mayor and all the city council members proudly rode the ship into her new homeport. It was a sad day when she was ultimately decommissioned.
So now we’re all getting ready to fly down to Mobile. I have family and friends going with me and a bottle of champagne from the Hotel del Coronado that I will use to name this splendid new ship. I know that bottle will be carrying the love and good wishes of all Coronado residents, and it will remind me of my mother and grandmother as we embark on this new journey.
May this ship and her crew have “fair winds and following seas” (like its namesake city’s weather) as they continue to build and later join the fleet. We will all be looking forward to her commissioning in about a year and a half.