The Navy League, Key West Commissioning Committee provided an unforgettable Key West-style commissioning for the crew of the USS Lenah Sutcliffe HIGBEE (DDG 123), on 13 May 2023, at the outer Mole Pier, Key West, FL.
The small group of Commissioning Committee members worked tirelessly for over a year, raising funds, getting the word out, and pulling the community together, to pull off an amazing week of events that showcased our city and our remarkable local sponsors. “I am amazed at the generosity and love of the military displayed by all of our sponsors”, remarked PAO Cindy McCausland. “From the National sponsors like Waypoint LLC, Lockheed Martin, and Ingalls to our local community like the City of Key West, Monroe County Tourist Development Council, and the Marriott Beachside, we were absolutely overwhelmed.” The Committee and the Key West Art and Historic Society hosted a Kick Off event in November and continued hosting events throughout the year: a “Color
the USS Higbee” Coloring Contest with the School District, Girl’s Night Out at the Hemingway Rum Company, a booth at the Air Show and Artisan Market, and lots more.
When the HIGBEE finally arrived on 5 May, the Navy League Commissioning Committee and the Truman Little White House hosted a Welcome Reception for the ship and events for the 280 crew members continued every day till they departed on 13 May. Crew Activities Coordinators, Abe Conn and Cathy Crane kept the crew busy and really showed them the best of Key West. Abe Conn added, “The crew became family after day two. They said they all had such an incredible time, and were so grateful to the Key West Navy League.” All the local museums were free for the crew and families and offered VIP tours and receptions: Hemingway House, Key West Woman’s Club, Art and Historic Society, Historic Tours of America, Truman Little White House, and more. There was a barbecue at Rick’s Bar, an incredible Party at Irish Kevin’s, Fury Sunset Sails, and an unforgettable concert at the Amphitheater featuring a free buffet by Catered Affairs and local celebrities Howard Livingston and Mile Marker 24 Band, Cliff Cody, and Kristin McNamara. All the local media, including US1 Radio, Keys Weekly, the Citizen, and Konk Life advertised our events free of charge and really boosted participation.
The highlight of the Commissioning Week was the Chairmans Reception, sponsored by Marriott Beach Side, who also hosted the Platform Briefing Breakfast and the amazing
Key West style Post Commissioning Reception with Cuban sandwiches and key lime pie for all. Distinguished speakers at The Chairman’s Reception included the Secretary of the Navy, Carlos Del Toro; Admiral Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operation; Rear Adm. Cynthia Kuehner, Director of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps; the Honorable Donald Norcross, U.S. Representative, New Jersey’s 1st District and member of the House Armed Services Committee; and the Honorable Teri Johnston, Mayor of Key West. Emcee Captain Marty Jenkins, (USN Ret) Navy League, Key West Commissioning Committee Chairman, thanked all of our many sponsors and the hard-working Commissioning Committee. "I could not be prouder of our commissioning committee. We not only crushed our goals but made a Commissioning ceremony into a week-long event that the city and ship's crew won't forget." He presented an amazing ceremonial cake and oil painting of the HIGBEE by local artist Ric McCausland to the ship from the Commissioning Committee. He added, “One of our key goals for this event was to enhance community involvement with the commissioning and, via this event, with the Navy. We're very pleased with the donations and participation from the people of Key West as well as the industry donors. Fits perfectly with our charter: To Advocate for, Educate about and Support the Sea Services.”
The HIGBEE was named for Navy Nurse pioneer, Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee. Nurse Higbee was the first woman to receive the Navy Cross for her exemplary work as Superintendent of the newly formed U.S. Navy Nurse Corps during World War I.
Because of this, the commissioning was held on 13 May, the birthday of the Navy Nurse Corps and the guest speaker was Rear Adm. Cynthia Kuehner, Commander, Naval
Medical Forces Support Command and Director of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps. She wished the Corps happy 115th birthday and reflected on its being one of the “greatest enhancements to the fighting strength of our Navy over the past 247 years of its rich history and celebrating the legacy of Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee.”
Over 2,000 local community members were excited to attend the Commissioning and the tours of the ship. This was an amazing event for the Conch Republic, as promised by Eddie Kertis, Key West Navy League Commissioning Committee Finance Chair.
“If you’ve never seen a ship commissioning, you’re in for a treat. It’s by far one of the military’s most impressive traditions.” The Navy League Key West Commissioning Committee and the Commissioning did not disappoint.
For more information on the HIGBEE commissioning and the Navy League, Key West Council visit www.higbeecommissioning.org or www.navyleaguekeywest.org.
Caption Photo #1 Higbee. “USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123)”
Caption Photo #2 welcome ship. “Navy League, Key West Council welcomes the USS HIGBEE to Key West.”
Caption Photo #3 welcome reception “Crew Members pose at the Welcome Reception at the Truman Little White House”.
Caption Photo #4 Oil “Chairman Marty Jenkins presents an oil painting by Ric McCausland to CDR Doug Brayton, CO, USS HIGBEE.” Photo by Cindy McCausland
Caption Photo #5 Bring the ship to life. “USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee’s Commanding
Officer Cmdr. Douglas Brayton, reported the ship ready to Capt. Courtney M. Minetree,
Commodore, Destroyer Squadron 21, and all three sponsors gave the traditional order to “Man our ship and bring her to life!”
KEY WEST, FL -- The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123), May 13 in Key West, Florida.
Guest speaker Rear Adm. Cynthia Kuehner, Commander, Naval Medical Forces Support Command and Director of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps wished the Corps happy 115th birthday and reflected on its being one of the “greatest enhancements to the fighting strength of our Navy over the past 247 years of its rich history” and celebrating the legacy of Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee.
“I and the nearly 4,000 active and reserve professionals represent will forever feel connected to this moment in history and words cannot fully express our gratitude for our presence and representation,” said Kuehner. “In honoring her selfless service we ensure that the permanence of her spirit is breathed into every space and crevice of this magnificent vessel as she comes to life.”
“The story of Lenah Higbee is the story of past, present and future Navy nurses and the undeniable, inseparable role of the Navy nurse in defense of our nation,” she continued.
“Our Navy, and in particular, our surface fleet, sends a strong signal that we remain committed to our values. Values that we share with our allies and partners around the world,” said Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro. “We will continue to put forth every effort to ensure freedom, stability, security, of sea lanes around the world. Today with the commissioning of the USS Higbee we add one more highly visible extremely capable warship to our Fleet.”
“It is fitting we commission this ship this week, which is National Nurses week, and particularly this day, the 13th of May. On this day our Navy Nurse Corps was established creating the institution that is the lifeblood of Navy Medicine,” said Admiral Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations. "Somebody once said, save a life and you’re a hero. Save a hundred lives, you’re a nurse.”
Guest speakers for the event also included the Honorable Donald Norcross, U.S. Representative, New Jersey’s 1st District and member of the House Armed Services Committee; the Honorable Teri Johnston, mayor of Key West; and Ms. Kari Wilkinson, president of Huntington Ingalls Industries-Ingalls Shipbuilding division.
The ship’s sponsors are Ms. Louisa O. Dixon, former Commissioner of Public Safety for the State of Mississippi under former Governor Ray Mabus; Ms. Virginia Thompson Munford, former Chair of Mississippi Bar Committees; and Ms. Rolanda Pickett Wilson, former Special Advisor for Education and Intergovernmental Relations under former Governor Ray Mabus.
During the ceremony, USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee’s commanding officer Cmdr. Douglas Brayton, reported the ship ready to Capt. Courtney M. Minetree, commodore, Destroyer Squadron 21, and all three sponsors gave the traditional order to “Man our ship and bring her to life!”
“If there’s anything I want us all to take away from the commissioning of this ship is that we all have the ability to make a difference and make an impact. Whether you are the first group of 20 female nurses in the Navy, a new Sailor to the service, or someone just wanting to see what a ship commissioning is,” said Brayton. “We all have the ability and choice to make a difference."
The future USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee, honors Navy Nurse Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee. Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee was the first woman to receive the Navy Cross while still living. Higbee joined the Navy in October 1908 as part of “The Sacred Twenty,” the first group of women forming the Navy Nurse Corps. She became the second superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps in January 1911, holding the position for 11 years. Higbee served in the Navy for 14 years, leading the Nurse Corps through World War I and the 1918 influenza pandemic.
Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee’s example is part of the Navy’s heritage - 247 years of standing the watch to protect the homeland, preserve freedom of the seas, and defend our way of life.
A Canadian by birth, Higbee completed her formal nursing training at the New York Postgraduate Hospital in 1899 and that same year married retired U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel John Henley Higbee. Higbee worked in private practice following her marriage. Higbee’s husband passed in April 1908 and she advanced her nursing career by completing a postgraduate course at Fordham Hospital in New York City.
On May 13, 1908, Congress passed legislation allowing for the establishment of Navy Nurse Corps - the equivalent of the Army Nurse Corps established in 1901. The Navy required members of its Nurse Corps to be unmarried and between the age of 22 and 44. The 36-year-old and widowed Higbee joined 19 other females to make up this first group of female Navy Nurses known as the “Sacred Twenty.”
Higbee became Chief Nurse at Norfolk Naval Hospital in 1909 and the second Superintendent of the Corps in 1911. Higbee led the Nurse Corps through not only World War I, but the Spanish Influenza epidemic. Higbee was one of four Navy Nurses to be awarded the Navy Cross in 1920, however, the other three were victims of the flu and honored posthumously. Higbee retired from the Navy in 1922.
Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are the backbone of the U.S. Navy’s surface fleet. These highly capable, multi-mission ships conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence to national security providing a wide range of warfighting capabilities in multi-threat air, surface and subsurface.
HOWARD LIVINGSTON AND THE MILE MARKER 24 BAND, KRISTEN MCNAMARA AND CLIFF CODY CONCERT AT THE AMPHITHEATER
The Navy League, Key West Commissioning Committee is proud to present Key West’s favorite Howard Livingston and the Mile Marker 24 Band, with American Idol singer-songwriter Kristen McNamara and country artist Cliff Cody at the Key West Coffee Butler Amphitheater on Wednesday, 10 May 2023, 4-9PM.
Gates open at 4PM with DJ Rude Girl playing your favorites, Cliff Cody takes the stage at 5PM, Howard Livingston performs at 6PM, with Kristen McNamara playing at 7:30PM. Howard and the band return at 8PM with the famous Johnson outboard margarita machine.
Tickets are only $10 for community members, and free for all Active Duty and children
under 12. Click the QR code for a link to Eventbrite tickets, also available at the door,
or on our website www.higbeecommissioning.org. Bring a chair or blanket, no outside
food, drinks or coolers, please. Food and bars will be available for purchase from
Catered Affairs. Come out and meet the crew of the USS Higbee and enjoy a great
night of Key West music’s best.
The Navy League, Key West Commissioning Committee is the proud sponsor of the Commissioning of the USS Lenah Sutcliffe HIGBEE (DDG 123), scheduled for 13 May 2023, 10AM, at the outer Mole Pier, Key West, FL. The HIGBEE, an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, is named for Navy Nurse pioneer, Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee. Nurse Higbee was the first woman to receive the Navy Cross for her exemplary work as Superintendent of the newly formed U.S. Navy Nurse Corps during World War I. May 13th is the birthday of the Navy Nurse Corps.
The commissioning ceremony, the culmination of a week of events for the crew of 350, their families, and as many as 5,000 visitors, will be open to all, with limited free tickets still available. Note: you must apply for your tickets at www.higbeecommissioning.org as soon as possible.
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