Monday, November 15, 2021

Christening of the USS New Jersey

Annamaria on Monday

This past weekend, my dear friend Rosemary Iversen and I--two "Jersey Girls"--traveled to Newport News, Virginia to participate in wonderful naval festivities.  Our friend Dr. Susan Demarco, the Sponsor of this new Virginia-class submarine, was scheduled to break a bottle of American sparkling wine on the huge vessel's bow and give it the name of her adopted and our native state!

Rosemary and Susan, demonstrating the brand
of friendship and warmth that permeated the proceedings 

We had front-row seats

Ship christening is a time-honored event.  As the program for the ceremony states:

"The practice of christening ships dates back more than 4000 years and has evolved since the early days, when Vikings used blood rather than champagne to mark the occasion. For more than a century, the tradition throughout the world has been that women christen ships.

The band played and for the entire ceremony, the current crew stood at parade rest. The woman on the screen is Jennifer Boykin, the President of Newport News Shipbuilding. Yes, a woman directs the company that builds the most advanced crafts on or under the sea. I love that fact! Also, this is the first such military vessel that accommodates a crew of men AND women.

Susan "suiting up" for the big moment.

“A great deal of attention is focused on the bottle of champagne or American sparkling wine used in the christening.  At Newport News Shipbuilding, the bottle is enclosed in a slotted aluminum casing - made in the shipyard - and then covered in a crocheted cotton sleeve. The coverings prevent fragments of the bottle from flying out and possibly injuring the sponsor or the spectators.

“Before shattering the ceremonial bottle, Dr. Susan DiMarco will proclaim, ‘I christen the United States Ship New Jersey. May God bless the submarine and all who sail on her.’ The submarine will then be ready to be launched and moved to a pier where outfitting will continue until the ship is ready for delivery."

I have the privilege and the great pleasure of calling Susan Demarco my friend. She is a modest, self-effacing person, admirable in so many many ways.  A true humanitarian, Susan is a volunteer with Catholic Charities in New York City, where she assists people seeking asylum in the US. She also goes regularly to the Texas border to work at a migrant respite center. She has donated her time and talents to a local food bank in Montclair, New Jersey, where she lives. She was appointed by President Obama to serve on the President's Advisory Committee for the Kennedy Center in Washington and has also served on the Women's Leadership Council at Lincoln Center in New York. I could go on and on with this list. Where Susan sees need, she pitches in. It's no surprise to me at all that this honor has been bestowed on her.

Susan and her husband Jeh Johnson, former Secretary of Homeland Security have two children, including a son who is a lieutenant in the United States Coast Guard.

Being the ship's sponsor is not a one-time event.  By giving SSN 796 its name, Susan has joined in a lifelong relationship with the submarine and with its current and future crews. She was there when the USS New Jersey's hull was laid. In fact, her initials are carved into its metal. She will be there when it is officially launched.  And, by interacting over the years with the officers and crew, she will imbue the vessel with her spirit.  So appropriate: her generosity, her caring, her offering her skills to benefit America and its citizens - all of these same kinds of sacrifices will be required of the submarine's crew as it sails forth to protect the American people and our allies all over the world.  Godspeed USS New Jersey.


  1. Love the blog, Annamaria. What a fascinating event to be able to attend.

    1. Thank you, Zoe! It was. What a privilege to be able to attend. You can say “once in a lifetime” about a number of things. This past Saturday absolutely fell into that category for me.

  2. What beautiful soul! In fact, make that a beautiful trio, Sis.

    1. Thank you, bro! When I got the invitation, I was thrilled. Going forward I began to worry about the weather. A bad day would’ve, shall I say “dampened our joy.” We got some wind, but sparkling sun most of the day. That put the icing on the experience!