Only three U.S. Naval ships have ever carried the namesake of Key West. The third to be named, the USS Key West (SSN-722), is the only submarine on the list—yet the Los Angeles-class sub and its crews have played a historical role in protecting the nation’s interests and freedoms for more than three decades.
Leading up to this weekend’s Key West Veteran’s Day events, crew members of the USS Key West will make a namesake visit before participating in Saturday’s parade. The crew, visiting from Guam, will mark only a handful of visits that a U.S. Navy namesake visit has occurred, with the last seven years ago.
“This is truly a historical moment,” said Ron Demes, whose accolades and title include Site Manager for Site Manager Atlantic Targets & Marine Operations. “I feel it is important that we make the crew feel at home here in their namesake city.”
Demes said namesake visits don’t come around that often and “it is a great way for us to thank these men and women for their service.” Not to mention, Demes said “the crew is proud to represent their namesake and they want to experience Key West while they are here.”
Demes has been instrumental in the crew’s visit and itinerary. On Friday, he will accompany the team to Rotary presentations, mayoral visits, a stop at Horace O’ Bryant Middle School and Key West High School—along with other meetings. And after the parade, the crew will squeeze in time to view the Superboat Races and a sunset cruise—all before departing on Monday.
Those attending the Key West Veteran’s Day Parade will have a special opportunity to see the sub’s crew, along with a replica of the USS Key West Submarine that was constructed by Ron Demes, Key West City Manager Jim Scholl and former Commanding Officer NAS Key West Captian Pat Lefere in 2011.
“I told the commanding officer [in 2011] if he would come to Key West, I would make a submarine to look like their boat,” said Demes. “He was blown away with the distinct details we put into the submarine. We wanted to reflect the same pride in this project that the crew holds for the Key West namesake.”
One of the distinct details that Demes referenced is the sub’s command emblem. The emblem features a conch shell with Key West emerging from the shell. According the sub’s Wikipedia page, the shell is “the focal point of the submarine’s emblem for the fabled horn of the Greek God Triton and the symbol of the submarine’s namesake city.”
Along with countless military operations that included Tomahawk missile attacks against Afghanistan immediately following 9/11, the USS Key West was featured in Tom Clancy’s novel “Red Storm Rising” and John Schettler’s novel “Kirov III-Pacific Storm.
Visit the sub’s Wikipedia page for more on the USS Key West and be sure to attend Saturday’s parade for a look at the crew and the replica. The Annual Key West Veteran’s Day Parade takes place on Saturday, Nov 10 at 4pm.