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On September 17, 2023, the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV), Carlos Del Toro, named the ninth John Lewis class Replenishment Oiler (T-AO 213) ship after Ms. Harriet Tubman. Ms. Tubman was a member of Thompson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church (renamed Harriet Tubman A.M.E. Zion Church) in Auburn, NY. The next oiler ship, bearing her name, will be built in San Diego, CA, in late 2025. The oiler ships supply fuel to the Navy's operating carrier strike groups. They can carry a load of 162,000 barrels of oil plus a significant amount of dry cargo to supply deployed Navy ships.

The first eight Replenishment Oiler ships from the John Lewis class bear the names of the following civil rights leaders and social activists: Harvey Milk, Earl Warren, Robert F. Kennedy, Lucy Stone, Sojourner Truth, Thurgood Marshall, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For her work as an abolitionist, conductor on the Underground Railroad, and Union Army service, Ms. Tubman deserves this honor to join this group. Harriet Tubman helped hundreds of enslaved people escape from the American South in the 1800s and cared for wounded soldiers during and after the war.

The SECNAV named the USNS Harriet Tubman at an Emancipation Celebration at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek, MD. The SECNAV brought comments to hundreds of attendees, including Ms. Tubman’s Great-great-great-grandniece, Ms. Tina Wyatt, and great-great-grandnephew, Mr. Douglas Mitchell. Mr. Del Toro stated, “Her legacy deserves our nation’s continued recognition, and our fleet benefits from having her name emblazoned on the hull of one of our great ships.” During the ceremony, Harriet Tubman’s great-great-great-grandniece, Ms. Wyatt, accepted the role of sponsor for the USNS Harriet Tubman, which entails establishing a relationship with the crew and the ship for the rest of her life. During her remarks, Ms. Wyatt stated, “Harriet Ross Tubman is a symbol of faith, freedom, family, democracy, and love. Aunt Harriet's legacy is an inspiration to a higher calling within us all, and overall, how we are enabled by sharing love for others and self,"

The Honorable Ventris Gibson, the first Black Director of the United States Mint and a Navy Veteran, also in attendance, presented the designs for the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Commemorative Coins scheduled for release for sale between January and February of 2024. According to Dr. Gibson, “The designs will be featured on a $5 gold coin, a $1 silver coin, and a half dollar clad coin, as authorized by Public Law 117-163, in recognition of the bicentennial of Harriet Tubman’s birth. All designs were created by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program Designers and sculpted by United States Mint Metallic Artists.”

Others in attendance included visitors to the National Park for the occasion, Midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy, US Navy personnel and veterans from all the Armed Forces, National Park Service Director Chuck Sams and other employees of the National Park Service, Maryland State Officials, Ms. Karen Hill, President and CEO of the Harriet Tubman Home, Inc. for The A.M.E. Zion Church, Ms. Karen Kreiger, Secretary of the Board for HTH, Inc., and myself, Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller, HTH, Inc. Board Member, who brought remarks on behalf of Bishop Dennis V. Proctor, Board Chair for HTH, Inc. and the Presiding Prelate of the North Eastern Episcopal District, and The A.M.E. Zion Church.

As a former Navy Chaplain, I was honored as a member of The A.M.E. Zion Church, where the free Harriet Tubman bequeathed her property in Auburn, NY, to reflect upon Harriet Tubman's unyielding display of the core values of military service, honor, courage, and commitment. I concluded my remarks in this way:

As Tubman led others to freedom, they encountered rain, sleet, hail, wind, and cold. Their clothes were tattered and soaked along the way. The soles of their feet gradually replaced the disappearing soles of their shoes. They ran out of food and water, so hunger often overtook them. Several of her followers sat on the ground and told Harriet they could not go through the storm. But Harriet’s response echoed scripture in 2 Kings 7:4, “Why sit here and die?” Especially when the promise of freedom is ahead of you.

The naming of the USNS Harriet Tubman and the release of the Harriet Tubman coins are the resounding effects of her following quiet but firm directive with a gun, "Get up and move."

Her legacy says we must not stop here.

Her legacy sets the stage for us in this nation to become commanders in our own right. There is much that threatens our freedom, our livelihood, our sanity, our spiritual wellness, and our faith in God. Still, when we choose not to sit here and die in culture, tradition, history, bigotry, all the isms of the world, and conformist behavior, we have heard and responded to Harriet's command: Get up and Move.

Harriet Tubman, in perpetuity, commissions us all in these new beginnings to continue to get up and move forward to freedom lest we die.

We must get up and move, following the mandate to love our neighbors.

We must get up and move so all receive their inalienable rights.

We must get up and move with purpose and power.

Even if we do not get up, We must move with confidence and faith.

We must move in service to our fellow citizens.

We must move and say No to wrong and Yes to right.

We must move and change me too, to Not me.

We must move and vote in all elections.

We must move and develop moral integrity and positive value systems that filter down through the generations.

We must move to speak truth to power to achieve social justice for all.

We must get up like Harriet and move to liberate the masses from the perils of life, and freedom's ring, freedom's ring, is eternal. I pray this day empowers us to get up and move, for there will be Fair Winds and Following Seas for this beautiful ship and blessings upon all. Amen. God bless you!

Harriet Tubman, Navy (SECNAV), Carlos Del Toro, Auburn, NY, San Diego, CA


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