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Commander, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic
Namesake’s Great-Great-Grandnephew Baptized Aboard USS Laboon
by Ens. Jana Smith, Naval Surface Force Atlantic Public Affairs
08 August 2022
NAVAL STATION NORFOLK --
Continuing a time-honored tradition aboard USS Laboon (DDG 58), a bell baptism service was celebrated Aug. 5 on the ship’s foc'sle for the great-great- grandnephew of the ship’s namesake, Capt. John Francis Laboon.
A tradition that dates back centuries to the British Royal Navy, baptisms were conducted at sea or in foreign ports. Infants and children were baptized underneath or inside the ship’s bell. After the baptism, the child’s name was engraved on the ship’s bell which remains with the ship until it is decommissioned.
“Baptisms onboard a Navy ship are a longstanding tradition,” said Cmdr. Henry P. Eshenour, Laboon commanding officer. “For USS Laboon and crew, it's a great honor to celebrate the legacy of our namesake and his life of service to our country and our Navy.”
The religious rite deepens the relationship between the crew and the namesake, strengthening the sense of community the warship holds with the family.
Presiding over today’s baptism was Lt. Ailsa L. Harl, resident chaplain aboard the ship. She reflected on the significance of the service remarking that Laboon’s legacy lives on in the spirit of the ship’s religious services, especially when the namesake family is involved.
“This naval tradition is very common but we don’t see it as often as we used to,” said Harl. “The opportunity to baptize a namesake or legacy baby is tremendous. Being a chaplain aboard a ship named after a chaplain, I find it to be a very sacred privilege and opportunity to come alongside his family, to be able to provide this space for them and to be able to share this community, this team.”
This is not the first time a namesake baptism service has been conducted aboard the ship. Five years ago, Lt. Mark Cook baptized Laboon’s great-great-grandniece aboard the ship named for the Pittsburgh, Pa., native.
The child’s father, Michael Laboon, who is also a Pittsburgh native, is proud of the connection his family holds with the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class, guided missile destroyer.
“It’s an honor to be able to come here and show our respects to Father Jake and all of the crew and to make sure our children understand the importance of having God in their lives and understand how much of a hero Father Jake was,” said Laboon.
“Having them baptized here will always have that part of history in our family for generations going forward.”
A remarkable athlete at the Naval Academy, Laboon served in the Navy as a submarine officer during World War II. He was awarded the Silver Star for valiantly jumping into mine-riddled waters under heavy enemy fire to rescue a downed aviator.
A decade after resigning from Naval service in 1946, Father Jake rejoined the Navy as a chaplain and served for another 23 years, retiring as the Fleet Chaplain of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
“This is our fourth time coming here,” added Michael Laboon from the deck of the destroyer. “We have met four different commanding officers and every single one of them welcomed us with open arms. All of the crew is very enthusiastic and proud to be on this ship. It’s been very nice to see the different faces throughout the years and it’s always the same love that we feel from this crew here.”
USS Laboon (DDG 58)
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