Sailors visit Delaware; mission accomplished

DOVER — There is a good back story to the photos of the USS Delaware crew above.

It starts with a proud Delawarean and his van’s Virginia vanity tag.

His tag represents the hull markings for the USS Delaware — SSN-791 (Ship, Submersible, Nuclear, serial number 791).

Terry Young got the tag in 2014 when he learned the U.S. Navy’s next nuclear submarine would bear the name of his home state.

Mr. Young works for a defense contractor that performs repairs and does enhancements on U.S. Navy nuclear submarines around the world.

In December 2015, Mr. Young was approached by a co-worker, a retired master chief. He wanted to know if his van had the hull number.

From the Editor logo copy copy“I confirmed it was my van and he laughed saying, ‘I just got off the phone with the COB (chief of the boat) for the USS Delaware and they were wondering who got the commanding officer’s vanity tag,’” said Mr. Young.

He explained his Delaware ties and interest.

“He said, ‘Well, I’ll tell the COB that it is on a car owned by a very proud person from Delaware,’” Mr. Young said.

With the response, Mr. Young sent a request to see if he could attend an upcoming ceremonial phase. He was honored with tickets to the invitation-only Keel Laying Ceremony on April 30.

“It was an awesome experience and it is where I met and became acquainted with the commanding officer (Brian Hogan) and the COB (Ricky Heering, the senior enlisted sailor assigned to the submarine) for the USS Delaware,” said Mr. Young.

A social led to several questions about Delaware, Mr. Young said.

“I asked them how many sailors assigned to the boat are from Delaware and their answer was none,” Mr. Young said. “So I asked them if they had ever been to Delaware and again the answer was no.

“They asked me if Delaware had a baseball team and I told them, ‘Yes, the Blue Rocks, a Triple A team in Wilmington.” They asked me if the state had a football team and I said that we have two major college football teams, but not a professional team.

“So they looked at each other, perhaps a little dismayed, and I said, ‘But, we do have something better than that, we have the Monster Mile, Dover International Speedway.

“They perked up a bit and I told them I’d be right back.”

Mr. Young said he spotted U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and began plotting a trip for the submarine crew to attend the spring race in Dover. The race (last weekend’s Sprint Cup event) was just two weeks away.

Sen. Carper’s aide Lori James reached out for help and found an ally in friend Gary Wallick, a radioman on the USS Bergall submarine from 1986-91.

Mr. Wallick, known locally for his work with Torbert Funeral Home in Dover, then reached out to Denis McGlynn at Dover International Speedway and lined up passes.

Mr. Wallick, along with assistance from USO Hampton Roads, worked out transportation for the trip from Norfolk and got six private donors to foot the $3,100 cost of a coach bus. Once in Dover, the crew had breakfast at Torbert’s, then headed to the speedway.

“We realized it was a good opportunity to show off our state to the sailors and do something for those guys,” Mr. Wallick said.

The relationship already is building. Mr. Wallick said the commanding officer and chief of the boat attended a Hall of Fame induction ceremony for his USS Bergall at the U.S. Submarine Hall of Fame Thursday after learning he would be there.

Mr. Young, who was raised in Kent and attended his first Dover NASCAR race with his grandfather in 1969, said it all worked out great for the visiting sailors and dependents.

“I accomplished my mission for the SSN-791 crew and for that I’m proud,” said Mr. Young.

The USS Delaware will join the Navy fleet in 2018.

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Would you believe it has been nearly a century since the U.S. Navy has had a USS Delaware in its fleet?

The last USS Delaware — actually one of six to defend our country — was used in World War I. It was launched in 1910 and scrapped in 1923.

Reach editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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