BATH, Maine (AP) — The mother of a fallen Navy SEAL christened the second Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer Saturday in the name of her son, who died in Iraq when he threw himself on an insurgent’s grenade to save the lives of two fellow SEALS.
The 610-foot, 15,000-ton ship, built by General Dynamics Bath Iron Works for the U.S. Navy, was named for Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor. The 25-year-old California native died in 2006 and was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
“May God bless this ship, and all who sail within her,” said Sally Monsoor before smashing a bottle against the hulking ship as some 2,000 people looked on.
Monsoor described her son as a quiet, loyal person and recalled how he once made a Christmas tree out of a sapling in their family’s yard.
The Zumwalt is the Navy’s largest and most technologically sophisticated class of destroyer. It is the first new class of warship built at Bath Iron Works in more than 25 years. The Navy took ownership of the first stealth destroyer last month, and work is underway on the third and final ship.
Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who spoke at the ceremony, called the Zumwalt class of destroyers “the most advanced naval destroyer the world has ever seen” and said its christening is a tribute to Michael Monsoor.
“His legacy will live on as this great ship conducts its mission in defense of our nation,” she said.
The futuristic-looking ship’s shape makes it 50 times more difficult to detect on radar than other ships of the same size. New innovations in automation will also allow the ship to be operated with a smaller crew than today’s current destroyers. The ships are heralded for their advanced and pinpoint accuracy gun system.
Retired Vice Admiral Joseph Maguire, president of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, expressed the Navy’s gratitude for Monsoor’s heroism, and said America “owes the Monsoor family a debt that can never be repaid.”
The Monsoor is headed to drydock, and is scheduled to move into the middle of the Kennebec River to be ballasted on Monday. Tugboats will then move it to the west side of the river.
The Navy’s 2017 budget proposal, submitted to Congress in February, showed the combined cost of the first two ships at an average of a little more than $4.5 billion each. A third ship, to be named for Lyndon B. Johnson, is expected to cost a bit less than $3.7 billion.
Some peace activists assembled Saturday outside the iron works during the christening. They have criticized the Zumwalt program as an extravagant use of public money.