The crew of the USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee lines the ship’s rail following the order to ‘bring our ship to life.’ LARRY BLACKBURN/Keys Weekly

“Captain, the USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee is manned and ready, reporting for duty.”

Such was the report from the deck of the Navy’s newest guided-missile destroyer during its May 13 commissioning ceremony in Key West.

The pride, patriotism and pageantry of the U.S. Navy was on full display during the ceremony that officially “brings the ship to life,” as the crew runs aboard to line the decks. The ship reports for duty and officially enters military service.

A weeklong commissioning celebration included a concert for the crew, visits to dozens of Key West attractions — and a few late nights on Duval Street. 

During the ceremony on May 13, Rear Adm. Cynthia Kuehner, commander of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps, spoke of the ship’s namesake, who was a pioneer in the Navy Nurse Corps and was the first woman to receive the Navy Cross for her service in World War I. Kuehner herself served as a Navy nurse in Fallujah, Iraq.

Lenah Higbee entered the Navy in 1908, as one of the first 20 women to make up the Navy Nurse Corps.

“We will run toward the danger. We will answer every call, because Lenah Higbee got it right,” Kuehner told the crew and a crowd of hundreds who lined the Navy’s Mole Pier. “Make no mistake, Lenah Higbee WILL care for you, her crew. And you will preserve her timeless and immortal legacy. She is indeed a warrior — and a Navy nurse.”

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro gave the official order to Commanding Officer Douglas Brayton to “man this ship and bring her to life.”

With that, the 510-foot ship’s 329 crew members ran aboard via two gangways, scampering up ladders to the upper decks, lining the rails in their dress whites and saluting their superiors and the Key West crowd below.

During his remarks, Brayton said, “We recognize today the efforts that turn steel to keel. Here, you’ll find the most advanced war-fighting systems in the world. And there is no team I’d rather sail with.”

Godspeed, Team Higbee. The Keys Weekly wishes you fair winds, following seas and safe travels.

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.