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Submitted by Phil Gerini OKC Patch SSN-723 7th Fleet logo contributed by Len Buonaiuto Yacht Club

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USS Oklahoma City

FINAL TRIBUTE

Shipboard Ceremony Honors Crew

The following letter was sent by Rebecca Triplett-Johnson, whose story and words appear elsewhere on this page. Although she was never on board our ship, she became a staunch advocate for preserving the Oklahoma City and her heritage for generations to come. As with many of us, she felt helpless because the orders were already cut and the ship's fate was inevitable. But she never gave up, writing the words for the Governor's proclaimation only days before the ship was sunk and arranging the ceremony she details below. The part that you won't see are the thousands of hours she spent lobbying all levels of government and military to save the ship and convert it to a museum. I'm sure that with enough time, she would have prevailed.-Joe C.

Dear Joe and Crew,

I hope that you approve of this ceremony and understand it's signifigance. It was a great honor to be given the opportunity by the Navy to create it. Yet, at the same time, it was a sad and bittersweet event to have to plan. Here are the reasons I felt that it had to be done.....

In my attempts to save the USS OKLAHOMA CITY and see her become a museum, I encountered more than the steel of her mighty structure. I encountered the lives and spirits of all those who had ever served aboard her.

As my goal of saving her began to fade, the lives and events of her wonderful crew members began to shine. They told of their respect and love for their ship. They told of days of war and sights and smells of battle. They told of days of peace with sights of beautiful oceans and sunsets. They spoke with great pride in their voices, while remembering their service to our country. They remembered the hours of midwatch, and the hours spent taking care of their ship that always brought them safely back to home port. She never let them down. They truely loved and respected their OKIE Boat.

I met sailors who were trained by my father to run her engines and throttles. These were the most preciouse stories of all to me. I had searched for this ship so many years, hoping to touch and connect with a part of my father's life. A part that he was so very proud of. Although I never got to acheive my dream of going aboard her, I was given so much more than I had ever imagined from you all.

I was given the true life and soul of the ship. I was given a crew of OKIE Uncles. My father would be so grateful to you all, for the kindness and respect that you have shown me throughout my journey to connect to him on his ship. All of you wonderful sailors, past and present, had to be given one lasting final tribute. A last farewell to the ship you called home and safety. And, you had to be saluted for your service to our country.

I was given the opportunity to work with Lt. Flex Plexico, Public Affairs officer, Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor. We set out to create a memorial service that would cover all of these points. I felt the one common link to you all, was the honor and respect you held for your country, your shipmates, and your ship. The reason the USS Oklahoma City was built was to serve and protect the United States of America. During many years of her service, she was the Flagship of the Seventh Fleet. From these facts, the final memorial ceremony was created... "THE FINAL SALUTE, FLAG CEREMONY".

During the week of March 17, 1999, the USS OKLAHOMA CITY was docked at Guam. She stood proudly and silently awaiting her final duty. An officer of the Navy went aboard her and attached the Proclamation, which Governor Keating of Oklahoma, gave me the honor of writing. Within the next few days, another officer and several sailors went aboard her. They brought with them an American Flag. The sailors attached the flag to her mast and raised it one last time. The breezes from the pacific ocean that she had sailed many times now waved her colors in honor of all who had ever been a part of her history. From the ship builders to the thousands of crewmen who made her the outstanding ship that she was. The officers and sailors saluted the flag and all it represented. Then the proclamation was read aboard her decks. A FINAL SALUTE was given.

The copy of the Proclamation was left aboard to go with her into the final battle of her career. Taking the honor of you all, her many crew, to her final resting place. May you all take comfort in knowing that your time spent aboard the USS OKLAHOMA CITY, in service to our country, has been given a lasting honor and memorial aboard your ship. One that has never been done before by the United States Navy. This Ceremony has been acknowledged and recorded as one of true respect and sincerety to you all. My one regret is that we all could not be there to witness it together.

I hope this gives you peace in saying good-by to a very outstanding part of your history. And, I hope you know the respect and honor you have earned from the United States Navy, and from me. "May you and your OKIE Boat have Smooth Seas Forever".

Rebecca Jo Triplett-Johnson

E-mail Rebecca at oceantrip2@hotmail.com


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