_________________ USS John Basilone DDG-122, Mast Stepping Ceremony _________________
Mast Stepping Tradition
Placing a coin at the step, or base, of the mast of a newly constructed ship is a tradition that far predates our modern Navy.
This tradition had its origin with the ancient Romans, who, according to their beliefs, would customarily place coins in the mouths of the dead in belief that this would enable them to pay Charon, the ferryman of the dead, for passage across the River Styx. Thus a warship could sail gallantly into battle, with the crew content in the knowledge that, should misfortune befall them, their toll would be paid.
The custom has survived, though the meaning of it has evolved with time. The items that are today chosen to be placed beneath the mast of a ship serve to represent the life and character of her namesake. They are often mementos from his or her life and accomplishments, and serve as a gesture of good will and good fortune for the ship and her crew.
The Mast Stepping Ceremony was held on Friday, June 17, 2022. Geoffrey Bender FTG2 70-74 had the privilege and honor of participating in the ceremony. He placed a USS Basilone DDE/DD-824 Association challenge coin and a USS Basilone rocker into the Mast Stepping Box. Other crew members in attendance Joe Fischer FN 65, Richard Henderson RM3 70-71, Michael Moscynski LTjg 71-74 and Howard (Lin) Smith RM3 64.
Mast Stepping Ceremony Invitation
Mast Stepping Ceremony Program
Mast Stepping Box
Commanding Officer of USS John Basilone DDG-122, CDR Carne Livingston making opening remarks
Ship's Sponser, Ryan Manion making remarks
Don Basilone (younger brother of John) and niece Diane Hawkins making remarks
Don Basilone placing a coin in the Mast Stepping Box
Captain Seth Miller, DDG 51 Arleigh Burke Class Program Manager, placing his coin in the Step Masting Box
Geoffrey Bender, FTG2 70-74, describing Association's Challenge Coin. He then placed the coin and USS Basilone Rocker in the Step Masting Box
CO, CDR Carne Livingston placing his coin in the Mast Stepping Box
XO, CDR Jason Holbrook placing his coin in the Mast Stepping Box
CMC Nkomo Willie placing his coin in the Mast Stepping Box
There were other challenge coins placed in the Mast Stepping Box. The Sargent Major of the Marine Corps, SgtMaj Troy Black placed his coin in the box. A Marine placed a coin from the First Division, 7th Marine Regiment in the box. Other crew members placed coins in the box, the DDG-122 Coin, the Chief’s Mess Coin, First Clase Petty Officers Association Coin.
Also, placed in the Mast Stepping Box was a vial of black sand from Iwo Jima.
Eleven senior crew members placing coinage into the Mast Stepping Box. Each coin has a mint date that has meaning.
1916 – the year John Basilone was born
1940 – the year John Basilone enlisted in the Marines
1942 – the year John Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor
1944 – the year John Basilone married Lena Riggi
1945 – the year John Basilone died and was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously
1949 – the year the USS Basilone DD-824 was commissioned
1977 – the year the USS Basilone DD-824 was decommissioned
1999 – the year Lena Riggi-Basilone died
2016 – the year SECNAV announced the USS John Basilone DDG-122
2020 – the year the keel was laid for the USS John Basilone DDG-122
2022 – the year the USS John Basilone DDG-122 was launched and christened
The monetary amount of the coins added to the Mast Stepping Box adds up to:
The last item to be placed in the Mast Stepping Box was a letter written by the CO, CDR Carne Livingston, to be opened when the ship is decommissioned.
After the ceremony was completed the Mast Stepping Box was sealed and the official party went to the USS John Basilone and the ships' sponser Ryan Manion welded the box into the mast.
Photographs provided by: Joe Fisher, FN 65, Michael Moscynski, LTjg 71-74, Geoffrey Bender, FTG2 70-74
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