Friday, August 13, 2010

Volunteers Witness Moving Ceremony

The first formal military ceremony I’ve ever seen is also likely to be one of the most moving that I ever will see.

Today’s change of command officially concluded Captain Jeffrey “Amtrack” Amick’s leadership of the USS Iwo Jima, and the inauguration of Captain Tom Chassee. Traditionally, the ceremony is a very formal event with the potential to be very elaborate. However, our limited resources aboard the ship demanded something more spartan. In fact, the brief gathering on the flight deck made the ritual’s core meaning even more powerful.

The ceremony opened with a lively rendition of “Anchors Away” by the Air Force. Then the Navy and Marine Corps color guard paraded their respective flags, along with Old Glory, in a perfectly drilled march. Finally, a trio of female sailors delivered a stunning rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner.

Captain Amick mounted the stage, radiating his well-known air of geniality. After thanking his parents and his wife for their support, he launched into his farewell speech, already visibly moved by the occasion.

He began by describing a crew’s devotion to their ship, and the captain’s duty to the crew. He heartily congratulated the Iwo Jima’s crew for their achievements over the past few years.

“Wherever we go, they know (the task at hand is) gonna be done quickly, and it’s gonna be done right the first time,” said Amick.

That martial ability has now been harnessed in Continuing Promise, of which the captain also spoke highly.

“Thousands of lives will be touched and improved by what we are doing here (in Haiti),” he said.

Commodore Negus presented Captain Amick with the pennant which had flown from the mast during the length of his command, framed in a majestic wooden display case.

“I’d stay here for another thirty years if they’d let me... but no, they won’t let me,” Amick said in closing with a smile.

He then turned to Captain Chassee, exchanged salutes imbued with the deep gravity of the moment, and took his seat.

The new ship’s master Chassee kept his speech short, in keeping with the traditions of the event.
“All I can ask is that you offer me the same second-to-none support you showed Captain Amick,” Chassee said.

And so, the Iwo Jima will carry on with a new captain. This ceremony provided Project HOPE team members with a moving glimpse into the world of our partners in the armed services.

In other news, Dr. Howe, President and CEO of Project HOPE, visited the onshore medical sites and the ship. Check out his blog. We’ll also said goodbye to two of our number, Stephen and Sam Casscells, as they will be departing with Dr. Howe for Port-au-Prince and the flight back to the States. We wish them all the best.

Story and photos by HOPE volunteer and PAO, Eric Campbell

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