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Navy destroyer named for Sen. Carl Levin is christened in Maine

Former Sen. Carl Levin, his wife Barbara Levin, stand with Ray Mabus. (Kimberly P. Mitchell/Detroit Free Press/TNS)

The destroyer named for the late U.S. Sen. Carl Levin was christened at a port in Maine on Saturday morning by the ship’s sponsors, Levin’s three daughters.

The ceremony came two months after Levin’s death at age 87 in late July. Levin, a Detroit Democrat, was Michigan’s longest-serving senator, spending 36 years in office and 10 years as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“For the United States of America, I christen thee Carl Levin. May God bless this ship and all who sail in her,” said Levin’s daughters, Kate Levin Markel, Laura Levin and Erica Levin moments before each shattered a champagne bottle over the ship as part of the traditional launching ceremony.

More than 100 guests and the crew of the ship attended the 90-minute ceremony Saturday morning, including U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who called Levin a dedicated public servant whom she cherished for 36 years in Senate.

“We are here to celebrate the christening of a great ship and a great namesake,” Collins said. “It is fitting that the ships of the U.S. Navy bear the names of those who display uncommon dedication to our nation. Today that name Carl Levin joins that illustrious roster.”

Retired Rep. Sander Levin, Carl’s brother, spoke at the event, saying it was an emotional moment for the family.

“Our hope is in the years and years to come, that this ship will help us to remember him and also as it sails the seas, honor all that made Carl a remarkable public servant and a glorious human being,” Levin said.

The USS Carl M. Levin launched over three days in May, built by General Dynamics at Bath Iron Works in Maine. An Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, the ship is about 510 feet long, weighs 7,500 tons and can travel at a speed of over 30 knots.

The boat had been scheduled to be christened July 24, but the ceremony was postponed during the final weeks of Levin’s life.

“Being the namesake of this great ship really was the highlight of our dad’s career,” Markel said. “Dad’s connection to this ship, its leaders and its growing crew kept his spirits high through his last days.”

In 2016, Levin told reporters at the ship’s naming ceremony in Detroit that the announcement caught him off guard and brought him to tears.

“I did not expect it. I didn’t seek it,” Levin said at the time. “It’s such an honor for me to be connected with the men and women who put on our uniform. It’s too difficult to describe any other way than overwhelming.”

Then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who knew Levin from his years heading the Armed Services panel, bestowed the honor in 2016, saying he considered Levin to be one of the “most influential” members of the Senate.

“Destroyers are named for heroes,” Mabus said in 2016. “Carl Levin is an American hero.”

The USS Carl M. Levin is a 510-foot-long Arleigh Burke-class vessel, the 70th in the class, that weighed 7,500 tons when it launched in May.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who was close to Levin, spoke at Saturday’s ceremony, calling Levin a fearless leader and devoted husband and father.

“One of the greatest privileges of my life was to serve with and be mentored by Carl Levin,” said Reed, who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee. “He did it all without fanfare, letting others posture and pontificate. He just wanted to make a positive difference to the American people.

“Carl always lead with decency and integrity and he lead from the front.”

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro spoke at the event, saying he did not know Levin but pointed out that the ship crest and it motto, “Tenacious in the Fight” embodied Levin’s life and career.

“He was fighting for all of us all Americans, for liberty,” Del Toro said.

The ship will carry a crew of 279, including 24 officers. Sea trials are scheduled for early next year, followed by the commissioning of the ship’s officers in late 2022 or 2023 in Baltimore. The home port for the USS Carl M. Levin will be Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.


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