Governor Phil Scott Celebrates Vermonters' Contributions to the U.S. Navy at USS Vermont Christening Ceremony
Governor Phil Scott today attend the christening of the USS Vermont in Groton, Connecticut, addressing a crowd of approximately 4,000 members of the U.S. Navy, government officials, General Dynamics Electric Boat employees, and the crew and family members of the USS Vermont.
The Virginia-class submarine will commemorate the history between the U.S. Navy and the State of Vermont. It will be the third vessel named after the state in the history of the U.S. Navy.
Below is a full transcript of Governor Scott’s address.
Governor Scott: Good Morning. Thank you for having me here today and to all those who worked to make this day possible.
To our host, Jeffrey Geiger, President of General Dynamics Electric Boat, and to the ship's sponsor, Gloria Valdez, I want to say a special thank you for your efforts.
I’d also like to recognize Governor Malloy of the great state of Connecticut, distinguished guests and members of Congress, including my good friend Peter Welch with whom I served in the State Senate.
To begin, I’d like to recognize the many service men and women here today, including many Vermonters who’ve served and are currently serving our country.
The sacrifices you’ve made and continue to make are the very definition of selflessness.
Each of you has a story to tell and we need to listen because there is much we can learn, as individuals and as a country, in the experience of those who have served.
Drawing on your valuable lessons to strengthen our nation is one way to honor your service. So, on behalf of all Vermonters, I thank you.
When many think about Vermont, they don’t typically think of the “seas.” It’s been a few million years since Vermont had any oceanfront property.
The waters of our state are those of mountain lakes and rivers, amid a rugged landscape. But here’s what you need to know: though the oceans are absent from Vermont, Vermont has never been absent from the seas.
As we have since the revolution, Vermonters have answered our nation’s call to protect and preserve American ideals and defend liberty around the globe.
The importance of Lake Champlain – Vermont’s largest lake, and a key supply line between Quebec City, Montreal, Boston and points south – should not be underestimated in our fight for independence. The battles for control of its waters were immensely important.
For example, under the cover of darkness on the evening of May 10, 1775, Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain boys waited at Hand’s Cove for the orders to cross.
Hours later, nearly 100 militiamen boarded the makeshift fleet and navigated the shallows of Lake Champlain towards Ticonderoga. Making landfall just after midnight, the Green Mountain Boys waited for the ships to return with the rest of the force.
But as dawn approached, it became clear reinforcements wouldn’t arrive before daybreak and with only 83 men, Ethan Allen ordered the attack.
By days end, Ticonderoga had fallen and soon the artillery from the fort would make its way outside Boston to hold off the British and their fleet in the harbor.
It was also in Lake Champlain where the Enterprise first set sail; where the New Haven and the Boston, and the Connecticut fought the Battle of Valcour Island in 1776; and it’s where the Spitfire was laid down under enemy fire.
Vermonters’ contributions to the Navy are significant. From those early battles on Lake Champlain during the Revolution and the War of 1812 to Robert Blair of Peacham – population, 700 – who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism in the capture of Wilmington and Fort Fisher in the winter of 1865.
Then there’s Albert Perry, who would leave his home state of Vermont in 1952 and rise to become a Navy Captain, commanding the USS Spadefish, a Nuclear attack Submarine.
His four sons would also become officers. Three served on Navy Subs and one was a Navy Pilot. I’ve been told he was the black sheep of the family.
Altogether, the Perry family combined has over 120 years of naval service between them, including service on 17 submarines, 4 aircraft carriers, a cruiser and a destroyer. Captain Perry now has three Grandsons serving in Active Duty, and one granddaughter-in-law.
An incredible record of service, all standing on the shoulders of a young man from tiny Richford, Vermont. Captain Perry, please stand and be recognized.
The USS Montpelier, another Navy sub, fired some of the first Tomahawk missiles into Iraq during the late winter of 2003. Its crew has been near annual visitors in our capital city for which the sub is named, and we hope the crew of the Vermont enjoys a similar relationship with Steve and Deb Martin, the VFW and the American Legion, who have done so much to foster our connection with the Navy.
And, of course, there’s the actions of Admiral George Dewey on May 1, 1898. Dewey’s Olympia had sailed two days from China to Manila Bay on orders to lay siege to Spain’s pacific fleet. At 5:41 that morning, Dewey gave his famous command to Captain Charles Gridley: “You may fire when ready.”
The battle that followed would prove to be one of the most decisive in Naval history. The Spanish fleet was destroyed while ours was fully intact. The threat from the west eliminated and the legend of George Dewey, from Montpelier, Vermont, who grew up across the street from our State House, was born.
That legend and his legacy are still revered today.
In Dewey’s hometown, two Steel Krupp Guns from the Spanish Cruiser Castilla – sunk at Manila Bay – flank our State House.
Vermont has also elected two Navy men to the United States Senate.
First was Lieutenant Commander Robert T. Stafford, who served in both World War II and in the Korean War. Stafford would go on to serve as Attorney General, Governor and in the United States House of Representatives before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1970.
And then there was Captain James Jeffords, who spent 34 years in the Navy and Naval reserves. He too would serve as Attorney General and in the U.S. House before taking Senator Stafford’s place in the Senate in 1988.
While these Vermonters may have gained notoriety, they’re just a few examples of the thousands of Vermonters who’ve stepped up to serve. The contributions of the servicemen and women from our “brave little state” – across all branches of the armed services – are well documented in American history.
From the fight for independence, a war to save the Union and the wars that would encircle the world to Korea and Vietnam and the Middle East, Vermonters have fought with honor and courage in defense of freedom and to bring the light of liberty and unity to parts of the world darkened by tyranny and oppression.
As Governor, I’m proud to stand before you, representing these incredible Vermonters.
Today, I’m also a proud son, as my father was one of those servicemen. Tech 4 Howard R. Scott was called up for duty during World War II and served his nation.
In the days after the D-Day invasion of Normandy, his tank struck a land mine and he was severely injured with both of his legs amputated above the knee.
He would spend two years recovering at Walter Reed Hospital before returning home to Vermont to marry and start a family. Unfortunately, when I was 11 my dad passed away from those injuries.
There’s not a day that goes by, where I don’t think of my father or the hundreds of Vermont families, like mine, who’ve suffered the loss of a loved one in service of this nation.
Knowing that this vessel, and the brave men and women that will make up its crew, will carry Vermont’s enduring commitment to freedom and honor the sacrifices made in its cause is a fitting tribute to both.
And I’d like to speak for a moment directly to the crew:
Please know that Vermonters are incredibly proud people. With an identity forged through harsh winters and a rural existence that require equal parts hard work, ingenuity and self-reliance, and a commitment to doing our part.
These characteristics have served us well for generations. I can only imagine they are similar to those needed to serve on a Virginia Class Submarine.
Ethan Allan once said, “The Gods of the Hills, are not the Gods of the Valleys…”
Even Allen – Vermont’s favorite Connecticut native – understood it took more to be a Vermonter – a greater effort, an adherence to distinct values and an unshakable commitment to carve our way of life from granite mountains and rocky hillside pastures.
Finally, on the waterfront in Burlington stands a Navy memorial.
There, a statue of a lone sailor stares off into the waters of Lake Champlain, his hands tucked deep into the pockets of his P-Coat and his gear by his side. Always ready, always eager to set sail to fulfill his duty.
There is perhaps no better image to illustrate the enduring spirit of Vermonters than this young sailor. Always ready, always eager to fulfill our duty to this nation and the principals we hold so dear.
I hope you know that those who serve on the Vermont will always hold a special place in our hearts. That in its name, this vessel carries with it a proud, often fierce, tradition of defending the United States of America.
And when the seas get rough, when the mission proves difficult, just remember: The Gods of the Hills sail with you and will always be with the USS Vermont.