Destroyer Will Bear the Name of Marines’ First African-American Aviator


By Debbie Gregory.

A U.S. Navy destroyer warship that is under construction has been named in honor of a Topeka three-star general who became the first African-American aviator, general and base commander in the Marine Corps.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, DDG 121, will be named for Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen Jr.

Petersen enlisted in the Navy in June, 1950.  In October 1952, he completed flight training and accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Petersen served a combat tour in the Korean War (1953) and in the Vietnam War (1968).

Petersen’s first tactical assignment was with Marine Fighter Squadron 212 during the Korean War. He would fly over 350 combat missions, and had over 4,000 hours in various fighter/attack aircraft. He held command positions at all levels of Marine Corps aviation, commanding a Marine Fighter Squadron, a Marine Aircraft Group and a Marine Aircraft Wing.

“The courage and perseverance of Lt. Gen. Petersen throughout his distinguished and groundbreaking career make him especially deserving of this honor,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. “Those who serve aboard DDG 121 will, for decades, carry on the storied legacy of this Marine Corps hero.”

Petersen retired after 38 years of service in 1988 as the senior aviator on active duty in the U.S. military. Highly decorated, Petersen received multiple awards for his service including the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Legion of Merit with Valor Device.

In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Petersen to the Board of Visitors to the U.S. Naval Academy. The board monitors morale and instruction.

Petersen died in 2015 at the age of 83.

Construction of the USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. began April 27 at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Pascagoula,Mississippi. The ship will be 509 feet long, have a beam length of 59 feet and be capable of operating at speeds in excess of 30 knots. It is expected to enter the Navy fleet in 2020.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Destroyer Named for MoH Recipient Michael Monsoor


By Debbie Gregory.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor was described by his mother as being “very loyal, silent and determined,” but a character none the less.

Michael Monsoor was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2008 for his actions in Iraq

On September 29, 2006, an insurgent threw a grenade onto a rooftop where Monsoor and several other SEALs and Iraqi soldiers were positioned. Monsoor quickly smothered the grenade with his body, absorbing the resulting explosion and saving his comrades from serious injury or death. The 25 year old died about 30 minutes later from serious wounds caused by the grenade explosion.

“The grenade hit him in the chest and bounced on the ground before he dove on it,” U.S. Sen. Angus King said. “It was knowing and deliberate. He was completely conscious of the sacrifice he was about to make.”

At Monsoor’s funeral, as the coffin was moving from the hearse to the grave site, Navy SEALs were lined up forming a column of twos on both sides of the pallbearers route. As the coffin passed each SEAL, they slapped down the gold Trident each had removed from his own uniform and deeply embedded it into the wooden coffin. For nearly 30 minutes the slaps were audible from across the cemetery as nearly every SEAL on the West Coast repeated the act.

President Bush, who attended the funeral, spoke about the incident later, saying: “The procession went on nearly half an hour, and when it was all over, the simple wooden coffin had become a gold-plated memorial to a hero who will never be forgotten.”

The future USS Michael Monsoor , a DDG 1001 guided-missile destroyer, was christened by Michael’s mother Sally, before a crowd gathered next to the Kennebec River at Bath Iron Works named for the Medal of Honor recipient.

Sally Monsoor, her daughter and her daughter-in-law were escorted to the bow of the destroyer by members of SEAL Team 3, Delta Platoon, with which Michael served.

The 610-foot-long destroyer features two advanced gun systems that fire long-range, land-attack projectiles up to 63 nautical miles, designed to support ground troops.

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