Story and Photos by MC3 Marissa Valentine
(YOKOSUKA, Japan) – Sailors aboard the Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) forward-deployed to Commander Fleet Activities, Yokosuka, held a memorial ceremony to honor the namesake of their ship, Steel Worker 2nd Class, Robert Dean Stethem at Yokosuka’s Chief Petty Officers club, June 19.
Stethem died on June 14, 1985 when his flight home from Greece was hijacked by Hezbollah terrorists. Stethem was beaten and killed, his body left on the runway, after the terrorists learned he was a member of the U.S. Navy
On March 12, 1986, Stethem was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for his courage,steadfast determination, and loyal devotion to duty beyond extraordinary circumstances.
Twenty-five years later on Aug. 24, Stethem was frocked to the honorary rank of master chief petty officer an idea proposed by the ship’s chief’s mess and approved by the then ship’s commander Cmdr. Hank Adams.
The ceremony June 19, was organized by the ship’s Second Class Petty Officers Association to honor the 30-year anniversary of Robert Stethem’s death.
“When Robert Stethem [the namesake of our ship] was killed he was a second class petty officer,” said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Marco Teran, president of the Second Class Petty Officer Association. “Being the president of the second class petty officers association, I thought it appropriate for us to organize a ceremony honoring him, and the sacrifice that he made,” Teran added.
“This was a reminder, not just for me but to everyone on the ship to stay motivated, positive and thankful that we have Sailors like Stethem to serve as an example of what kind of shipmate we should be,” said Teran prior to introducing the guest speaker for the ceremony,Robert Stethem’s brother.
Retired Boatswains Mate Chief, and former Navy Seal Ken Stethem, spoke to Sailors about his brother and the importance of spirit, honor, courage and commitment.
“Not a day goes by that without all of us in the family thinking of Rob, thinking about his loss and his sacrifice to the Navy and the nation,” said Stethem. “It has been 30 years this week, and we still miss him. We are very proud of the legacy that Rob left, it is one of honor, courage, and commitment. The ship since its commissioning carries on that legacy, so it iswonderful to see the Sailors remember him and honor his sacrifice as well,” said Stethem.
Stethem left the Sailors in attendance with one final thought to ponder.
“I want all of the crew to remember that it’s the spirit that you show up with, it’s the spirit that you have in doing your duty, it’s the spirit that makes the difference in our Sailors, in our Navy and in our Nation.”
USS Stethem is currently forward deployed to 7th fleet area of operations supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.