Wednesday, June 18, 2008

USS GONZALEZ Lebanon Evacuation 2006

“I've told the story a couple of times, I'll briefly go over it again, and it just -- it really has touched me. We carry a fair bit of our passengers here in civilian ferries, so we don't only have military transport, but we try and use, of course, as much civilian ferry transport as we can as well. And a few evenings ago, on a ship called the Orient Queen, it had come out of Beirut harbor fairly late in the day and it was making its way to Cyprus. As I mentioned earlier, I believe, we escort these vessels because of the precious nature of the cargo that's on board -- wonderful American citizens, and they are the most precious thing you could possibly image, if course, to us, and we guard them very carefully. So we had escorts guarding the Orient Queen. Normally we keep these escorts at a distance and they're unseen by the civil master of these vessels. They're not generally used to having large American steel that close abeam them. So we keep them out of sight just over the horizon, but still close enough to provide adequate coverage in case the vessel were to be attacked. At any rate, evening was setting, a light fog had rolled in; visibility was not that great. And in the setting rays of the sun that was going down, the USS GONZALEZ steamed out of the mist, close abeam the Orient Queen. And the last rays of the sun flashed upon the stars and bars flying proudly in the breeze. Every American onboard that Orient Queen broke into spontaneous sustained applause and cheering. And I had a Marine abroad who was part of the security detachment, and he got on his phone and he called and he said that that moment when that happened was the most patriotic moment of his life. This is a major in the Marine Corps who's been around the block a couple of times. He said he never felt prouder of being an American at that moment. And I can tell you that I think the American citizens on the Orient Queen never felt prouder themselves to be citizens of the United States.”

Brig. Gen Jensen, CTF 59 during his Pentagon Press Corps interview August, 2006

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