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!”
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