Arlington group raising cash for namesake Navy ship

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Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

An Arlington County group is trying to raise $500,000 to mark the official launch of a new Navy ship named after the county in honor of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

The USS Arlington Commissioning Committee is raising money to pay for a tribute room aboard the ship that would house girders from the Pentagon and a star for each of the 125 people killed there. The group also wants to fund additional events for the victims' families, survivors and first responders during the ship's April 6 commissioning in Norfolk.

"It will commemorate the victims and first responders who acted so heroically and forever forms a bond between us and the ship," said Arlington County Treasurer Frank O'Leary, the group's vice chairman of activities and finance.

The USS Arlington is a landing platform dock, or LPD, that could carry 360 sailors, 700 Marines and their equipment -- including four helicopters -- into war zones and disaster areas. It's one of three ships named after the 9/11 attack sites.

The USS New York, a tribute to those lost at the World Trade Center, has already been commissioned. The USS Somerset, named after the Pennsylvania county where passengers of United Flight 93 forced down the highjacked plane, is expected to be commissioned this year.

The New York and Somerset were built using metal from the attack site. Steel recovered from the World Trade Center was used to build the bow of the USS New York. Steel from a crane used to recover wreckage near the Flight 93 crash site in Pennsylvania was used in the USS Somerset.

"This means a lot to the county, particularly because it's commemorating 9/11," said County Board member Libby Garvey. "It's important to commemorate the heroic efforts that took place that day."

The Arlington group is holding a fundraiser Jan. 31 at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington. Gov. Bob McDonnell and many top Virginia and Navy officials are expected to attend.

Jim Pebley, vice chairman of the USS Arlington Commissioning Committee, said the group already raised about one-third of its $500,000 goal, a mark that the retired Navy commander said he was committed to reaching.

"This is my last Navy mission," Pebley said. "We've got to help this ship."

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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