Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
USS Ralph Johnson to be commissioned in Charleston
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced the selection of Charleston, S.C. as the location for the commissioning ceremony of the future USS Ralph Johnson on Jan. 11. The ship and the VA medical center in Charleston are both named for Pfc. Ralph H. Johnson, USMC who received the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic actions in Vietnam, where he threw himself on an enemy grenade to save the lives of his fellow Marines.
“It is absolutely fitting for Ralph’s hometown to be selected as the site of this ship’s commissioning,” said Scott Isaacks, director of the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. “Our VA proudly bears the name of this 19-year-old Marine who made the ultimate sacrifice, and many of us who work here feel as if we know him thanks to his family – especially his sister, Helen, who volunteers at our VA each week – and the many stories they have shared with us of this very special young man.”
The future USS Ralph Johnson, whose construction was first announced by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus on Feb. 15, 2012, a Flight IIA destroyer. The ship will be equipped with Aegis Baseline 9 which incorporates Integrated Air and Missile Defense and enhanced Ballistic Missile Defense capabilities. These DDG 51 class ships are integral players in global maritime security, engaging in air, undersea, surface, strike and ballistic missile defense. The USS Ralph Johnson will be the Navy’s 64th Arleigh Burke class destroyer. At the time of his death, Johnson was assigned to the Marine Corps’ 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, whose motto “Swift, Silent, Deadly’ has been adopted by the ship.
No date has been set for the commissioning ceremony, but the ship was launched at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., Dec. 12, 2015 and a christening ceremony was held there in March 2016. The Charleston Council of the Navy League, in partnership with the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, is coordinating local planning for the commissioning
“The Navy League is truly honored to lead the community effort to bring the commissioning ceremony of this great ship to Private Johnson’s hometown,” said Charleston Council of the Navy League president Capt. Patrick Keaveny, USN (ret.). “There is incredible support from so many organizations and individuals across the Lowcountry, and I cannot think of a better way to honor our native son.”
“Ralph would be so humbled,” said his sister Helen Richards upon hearing the news. “I am so thankful for all the Navy League, the VA, and so many others have done to keep his memory alive, and I cannot express what this means to me and my family.”The future USS Ralph Johnson will be commanded by Cdr. Jason P. Patterson, USN and will be homeported at Naval Station Everett in Washington. The Ship Sponsor is Georgeann McRaven, wife of Admiral Bill McRaven, USN (ret.), former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command.