Navy christens USNS Harvey Milk in San Diego

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The U.S. Navy launches the USNS Harvey Milk, a fleet replenishment oiler ship named after the first openly gay elected official, in San Diego, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. The Navy ship is the second of six vessels in the Navy’s John Lewis-class program, second to the USNS John Lewis. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The Navy christened and launched its latest ship during a ceremony in San Diego Saturday, a replenishment oiler named after slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk.

“May God bless this ship and all who sail on her,” said Paula Neira, Navy veteran and clinical program director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Health, as she broke a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow at 10 a.m. Saturday, accompanied by Carlos Del Toro, secretary of the Navy, and others.

The USNS Harvey Milk is the second ship in the Navy’s John Lewis class of fleet replenishment oilers, which will serve to refuel Navy ships at sea.

Saturday’s ceremonial address was delivered by Harvey Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk, with remarks from Navy leaders.

Del Toro said that when he travels the world meeting Navy personnel, he always tells them, “Be bold, be brave and take care of the people you lead. Fight for them, that’s what your uncle did,” speaking to Milk’s nephew.

“Uncle Harvey did not set out to have a ship, school or park named after him,” Stuart Milk said. “He did have a dream, however. Yes, Uncle Harvey was forced to resign because he was gay. Let’s teach his story, teach about our flaws so we don’t go backward.”

Milk presented books and documentaries about Harvey Milk to the captain of the ship for its library.

“Harvey actually dreamed of today,” Stuart said. “His dream gave him courage. Harvey left this world seeing all of us fulfill our potential and making his dream a reality,”

Neira said that when the USNS Harvey Milk sails, it will be sending a strong message around the world.

“There’s a place for you,” she said. “These ships will inspire our sailors, our country to express our values of honor, courage and commitment.”

The John Lewis class of ships are each planned to be named after notable civil rights leaders and activists.

Milk served in the Navy during the Korean War as a diving officer, then became the first openly gay elected official in California when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.

He was assassinated on Nov. 27, 1978, at the age of 40, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone.

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