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Navy Commissions USS Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park

National Park News

The USS Mesa Verde, LPD-19, was commissioned on Saturday in Panama City, Florida, the most recent Navy ship to be named after a national park. Representatives from the park and from the state of Colorado attended the ceremony.

The ship, a San Antonio class amphibious transport dock ship, will be used to transport and land Marines, their equipment and supplies by embarked landing craft or amphibious vehicles, augmented by helicopters, in amphibious assaults. These versatile ships perform the mission of amphibious transports, amphibious cargo ships and the older dock landing ships (LSD) by incorporating both a flight deck and a well deck that can be adjusted to support landing craft.

As a tribute to the ship’s legacy, an educational exhibition was held on Saturday at Gulf Coast Community College. There were exhibits, interactive educational activity stations, interactive educational learning environments, films about the park and Native American history and culture, and an exhibit by Northrup Grumman about construction of the ship. This was a celebration and tribute to Native American cultures across the nation – particularly the 24 tribes associated with Mesa Verde National Park.

The Mesa Verde was christened on January 15, 2005, by Mrs. Linda Campbell, wife of former Colorado US Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell. With the commissioning ceremony, the ship became a unit of the operating forces of the United States Navy. A commissioning is an elaborate event, steeped in tradition, which dignifies the occasion as the ship “comes alive” and the Mesa Verde becomes USS Mesa Verde.

 â€œMesa Verde is a jewel of our national park system that celebrates the extraordinary beauty and diversity of that region and our nation,” said then Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig in 2000. “The real richness of Mesa Verde and that of our country’s naval service, however, lies in the people – the remarkable legacy of their past and a future with great promise.  The naming of USS Mesa Verde establishes a strong and fundamental link between this nation and those who serve and truly value that bond.”

The prospective commanding officer and ship’s crew developed a motto that is part of the ship’s crest – “Courage, Teamwork, Tradition” – that reflects the courage, teamwork and tradition of the ancestral Puebloans who lived in the Mesa Verde region and built the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park.

The ships crest represents the ship’s crew, Navy, Marine Corps, the park, the Four Corners region, and the country’s Native American heritage (an image of the crest can be found on the ship’s web page – go to the following page, scroll to the bottom and click on the link to the image: ).

The shield’s arrowhead shape and Cliff Palace representation reflect Mesa Verde National Park.  The yucca plant represents the Mesa Verde region and denotes hardiness and survival.  The compass rose symbolizes worldwide capabilities and expertise.  In the crest, the green plateau represents Mesa Verde’s name, while the bald eagle symbolizes the United States of America; the juniper sprig held by the eagle is native to the region and bears 24 berries, each for the modern Indian tribes, who trace their ancestry to the Mesa Verde region.  The trident denotes authority and mastery at sea while the Naval officer’s sword and Marine Corps mameluke symbolize teamwork and cooperation between the Navy and Marine Corps.

Another tradition that occurs in the construction of a new ship is called “stepping the mast” – an ancient tradition in which coins are placed under or near the mast when the mast is installed. The coins are intended to bring the ship good luck. The Navy continues this tradition today, adding other items as well. When the USS Mesa Verde’s mast was stepped in 2005, items used in the event included some of considerable significance to the park:

  • A 1906 penny from Mesa Verde National Park superintendent Larry Wiese, representing the year the national park was established
  • A 1916 penny from the National Park Service, representing the year the National Park Service was established
  • A Native American “sprinkler” used to sprinkle water as part of the ceremony, made from fibers of the yucca plant and decorated with coral, turquoise, abalone seashells, a turkey feather, and an eagle feather.
  • A handmade Zia pot, made from clay and painted with natural materials that contained water from a scared spring in Mesa Verde National Park
  • A handmade buckskin pouch containing an obsidian arrowhead to guide the ship safely in the future
  • A sun symbol from the Pueblo Zia

For additional information about the USS Mesa Verde go t


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