The USS John P. Murtha will be commissioned into service at a ceremony in Philadelphia on Saturday. It is the second major ship built for the Navy with local ties and a name to match.
The USS Somerset, an identical ship, was commissioned in 2014 to honor the heroes of United Flight 93 who died on Sept. 11, 2001. The John P. Murtha was named in honor of the former congressman, who represented the 12th District in the U.S. House of Representatives for 36 years. Murtha died in 2010.
Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk said it's an honor to have two Navy vessels with ties to the region.
"We appreciate what Congressman Murtha did for us," he said. "We'll be there to honor him and his family.
"I think it's an honor to have two ships named that close together. Normally, I don't know if we had any named, but now we've had two in two years."
Bob Kirst said he will also be attending the ship's commissioning at Penn's Landing. Kirst is the president of Global/SFC Valve Corp., of Somerset, which built many of the valves for both ships.
"All of us 52 employees here worked very hard to make the products for the ship," he said. "We're the only people in this area that build equipment for these ships."
Global/SFC Valve built about 200, 45-pound valves for the ship's lube oil and steam systems. The ship itself is 684 feet long and 105 feet wide. It transports Marines, helicopters and amphibious vehicles.
"It's a great thing for our area that will live in the fleet for 30 years," Kirst said. "I'm extremely pleased and honored that the secretary of the Navy (Ray Mabus) would recognize our former congressman for a great honor."
The USS John P. Murtha's name was announced on April 23, 2010, two months after his death. It takes about four years to build each ship. After the christening, the ship will be stationed in San Diego.
"All associations and our local suppliers are extremely proud to provide critical valves, fittings and equipment for this and all LPD ships," Kirst said.
Kirst also emphasized that providing funding is important for these ships and the Navy.
"The Navy is grossly underfunded to provide an effective defense of our country," he said. "Contact your congressman and urge him to back ship and defense building."