O’er the land of the free
Published 9:38 am Wednesday, September 24, 2014
NEWPORT NEWS—When the U.S. Navy christened its latest Virginia-class attack Submarine, the USS John Warner, on Sept. 6, a Courtland resident had the honor of singing the National Anthem for the event.
Ashley Bryant, who works at the shipyard, said this all got started when they were looking for a shipbuilder to sing the National Anthem. Her unit, she said, worked on modules that went inside the submarine. A group of coworkers submitted her name to the foreman.
“My group kind of volunteered me for it,” Bryant said with a laugh. “I originally told the foreman that I didn’t want to do it, but then I went ahead with it.”
Out of eight contestants, she was chosen. “I got up there and sang the National Anthem,” Bryant said. “I think there were 9,000 people there.”
Outside of singing, she also got to have dinner with the ship’s namesake, John Warner, a former U.S. Senator from Virginia. Warner served as Secretary of the Navy from 1972 to 1974. Also present was Warner’s wife, Jeanne, and Shipyard President Matt Mulherin.
She was also able to bring her family up there to participate.
“The whole entire day was breathtaking from beginning to end,” she said. “The whole project was breathtaking. They treated me like I was John Warner. I had someone to wait on me, and I had an escort.
“After dinner, they called me up on stage where John Warner was, and they recognized me and two other ship builders. It was real cool.”
Then there’s the actual singing.
“I was hoping that I didn’t forget the words,” Bryant said. “Yes, I was nervous.”
But she didn’t forget the words.
“The whole entire day was kind of like I was floating on the clouds,” she said. “It still hasn’t hit me, the magnitude of what I have done.”
Bryant isn’t done, either. On Friday, Oct. 3, she will be singing the National Anthem for the Naval Officer Commissioning Ceremony of ITC Jamie Nichols at 10 a.m. at the Paul D. Camp Community College Regional Workforce Development Center.
The USS John Warner was built at the Newport News Shipyard, and will be stationed at the Naval Station Norfolk. Some of the dignitaries present included Terry McAuliffe, Bobby Scott, Scott Rigell, Randy Forbes, Mark Warner and Ray Mabus.
You can go online and watch the ceremony at www.warnerchristening.com.