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Ceremony salutes namesake of the USNS Harvey Milk for ship's maiden voyage

On Friday morning, a special ceremony held on board the USNS Harvey Milk paid homage to the San Francisco gay rights icon who is its namesake.

The vessel is the first U.S. Naval ship named after an openly gay person. The ship arrived in San Francisco Thursday afternoon, sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time as it made its first port of call on its maiden voyage.

A number of local and national officials spoke at the ceremony. San Francisco Mayor London Breed spoke briefly before introducing Rear Admiral Richard Meyer, the deputy commander of the U.S. Third Fleet.

"Our Navy ships' names are important, because they express what we value as a Navy and as a nation. A ship's name communicates those values around the globe, and at every port of call and wherever a ship sails," said Meyer. "We are so proud this ship carries the name Harvey Milk. Harvey Milk the man spent a good portion of his life as a champion of equality and universal rights." 

People with close ties to Milk, including his campaign manager Anne Kronenberg and his nephew Stuart Milk also spoke at the ceremony.

Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi closed out the ceremony with her comments, noting that the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein was one of the original sponsors of the ship and looked back on the day when the ship was officially named in 2016.

CBS News Bay Area livestreamed the ceremony on the home page as well as on the station's YouTube channel.   

Ceremony honoring USNS Harvey Milk and its namesake in San Francisco by KPIX | CBS NEWS BAY AREA on YouTube

Following the ceremony, there will be a special National Vietnam War Veterans Day awards presentation for Bay Area veterans later in the afternoon Friday. 

Plans to name the ship after Milk were first announced in July of 2016, when then United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus let Congress know he intended to name the vessels making up the new John Lewis-class oilers after noted civil rights leaders. 

Milk served in the US Navy during the Korean War aboard USS Kittiwake (ASR-13), a submarine rescue ship, and held the rank of lieutenant (junior grade). His career in the Navy ended with an "other than honorable" discharge due to allegations of fraternization with enlisted personnel. 

Milk went on to become one of the first openly gay candidates elected to public office in the nation. He was serving on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on November 27, 1978, when a former political colleague, Dan White, assassinated him and Mayor George Moscone at City Hall.  

The ship was officially named at a ceremony in San Francisco on August 16, 2016, and was christened and launched from San Diego Bay in November of 2021

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