ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Observing the USS Sioux City's commissioning Saturday, a comparison between the day's events and a wedding came to mind.
For the past two years, we've all watched the buildup to the big day, and now we've celebrated the occasion.
Like a wedding, the commissioning is but a single day. Yes, it's significant, but what matters most is what happens in the years to come.
For more than six years, Sioux City's relationship was built right along with the ship. We've welcomed crew members who visited us here, donated money to fund the commissioning celebrations, traveled to Wisconsin to see the ship christened and then to Annapolis and the U.S. Naval Academy to see the USS Sioux City ushered into the Navy fleet.
Again, comparing the commissioning to a wedding: Just like the new bride and groom's relationship continues to mature and grow in the years after their wedding day, so too will the USS Sioux City's relationship with its namesake city evolve.
Like a marriage, this is a lifetime commitment, not a one-day celebration. The ship will be in service for 30 years, probably longer. There's no doubt that the relationship between city and ship will get anything but stronger.
"I thought and still think that the most important thing coming out of this commissioning week is the bond between the ship and her namesake city -- the USS Sioux City and Sioux City," said retired Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, the commissioning committee chairman who by now is no stranger to Sioux City.
Thorp visited the area six times over the past two years. He's been blown away by how this city, this region and its people have embraced the USS Sioux City. It's up to all of us to make sure that that enthusiasm endures.
"What we want to do is create processes that will create excitement for the life of the ship," Thorp said.
Some of those processes are already set up.
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Siouxlanders were generous, donating over half of the more than $850,000 raised for the commissioning festivities and to establish the Legacy Education Fund. The ship's commanding officer will be able to use that fund's interest and dividends to pay for educational opportunities for crew members and their families. A total of $205,000 and climbing has been contributed to it.
Security National Bank in Sioux City will manage the fund, and many local leaders will be on its board of directors. Donations still may be made by contacting the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce.
"It's a great way for the ship to stay involved with the city," Thorp said.
The USS Sioux City each year will name a sailor of the year, and Chamber president Chris McGowan said the Chamber plans to recognize that honoree each fall at the annual Chamber dinner. USS Sioux City crew members are welcome any time, and McGowan would love to see them here often so Siouxlanders can meet the people serving on "our" ship.
"I hope that there are going to be regular visits by members of the crew to participate in our community events," he said.
That, of course, depends on the ship's deployment status. Those periods when the ship is at sea are perfect times for letter-writing campaigns from elementary schools and sending care packages to the crew, McGowan said.
There are sure to be other ideas in the future. The ship's commander and crew will change. City leaders will be replaced by new ones who may have other ideas how the city and ship can stay connected.
Given what we've seen during the past couple years, the interest in the USS Sioux City and the support it's received from this community isn't going to fade.
Thorp offered his own comparison of the ship/namesake city relationship to a marriage. When you see a great couple, he said, you know they've got it made and their marriage will be a success. He sees the same with Siouxland and the USS Sioux City.
"I really believe in my heart that Sioux City will continue to support the ship," he said.
You know Siouxland residents will because we take care of our own here.
The USS Sioux City may belong to the U.S. Navy, but we've shown that it's ours, too.
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