ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Oct. 12, 2006) Kelly Sullivan prepares to visit the crew of her sponsor ship, USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) anchored in the Chesapeake Bay during a port visit to the U.S. Naval Academy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher A. Lussier/Released)
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Oct. 12, 2006) Kelly Sullivan prepares to visit the crew of her sponsor ship, USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) anchored in the Chesapeake Bay during a port visit to the U.S. Naval Academy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher A. Lussier/Released)

By Kelly Sullivan

I am a soccer mom to two cool kids, a third-grade teacher, yogi, and the sponsor of a Navy warship.

It was 20 years ago that I had the incredible honor of commissioning the Navy’s finest warship named for my grandfather and his brothers – USS The Sullivans (DDG 68). I was very pregnant with my firstborn child as my brother John and I stood at the rails and gave the orders to “Man our ship and bring her to life.” It was amazing to watch all of the Sailors run onto the ship with hands over heart and the Navy Hymn playing in the background. I’m telling you, there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience.

Even today, I call the ship my firstborn as my oldest child was born three months after the ship’s commissioning. Over the years, I have been blessed with many opportunities to spend time with our nation’s heroes. I was there on the pier to send the crew off for their first deployment – again, very pregnant, this time with my second child. I threw out the last line and sobbed as I watched all the families say goodbye.

I had a bad feeling that day, and I just chalked it up to pregnancy hormones. Three months later, Bin Laden attempted to blow up my ship with a fishing boat full of explosives. Five angels were looking down on the crew and the fishing boat sank in front of the ship. Sadly, he succeeded with our sister ship, USS Cole (DDG 67).

I never realized how much the ship and my crew would become such a huge part of my life. Each visit to the ship touches me in a way that is tough to describe. Even after 20 years, I still get goosebumps when I see her.

Veterans Day weekend will be extra special this year. This weekend, we will celebrate the 20th birthday of this great warship as USS The Sullivans will be back at the namesake pier where she came to life, representing our Navy in New York City. The crew will march in “America’s Parade,” through Manhattan, down famous, flag-lined streets and boulevards.

The five Sullivan Brothers. On board USS Juneau (CL-52) at the time of her commissioning ceremonies at the New York Navy Yard, February 14, 1942. All were lost with the ship following the November 13, 1942 Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. The brothers are (from left to right): Joseph, Francis, Albert, Madison and George Sullivan.
The five Sullivan Brothers. On board USS Juneau (CL-52) at the time of her commissioning ceremonies at the New York Navy Yard, February 14, 1942. All were lost with the ship following the November 13, 1942 Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.
The brothers are (from left to right): Joseph, Francis, Albert, Madison and George Sullivan.

We will also honor the 75th anniversary of the sinking of USS Juneau (CL 52), which departed from Brooklyn and went off to war with more than 700 Sailors that lost their lives, including my grandfather and his four brothers. I am honored to also have onboard the ship for the ceremony, the grandson of Capt. Lyman Swenson, Juneau commanding officer when attacked. Both of our lives were changed forever on Nov. 13, 1942, during the Battle of Guadalcanal.

I always wondered what it would have been like to have the big Irish Catholic family that I would have had if even one of the boys had survived. But, I also know that my life is incredibly blessed with my fantastic Navy family.

Growing up a Sullivan, I always felt in my heart that the boys represent all of our veterans who have sacrificed. This continues today. It is a bittersweet blessing to commemorate Veterans Day weekend with Sailors aboard a Navy ship that represents the loss of all veterans.

I couldn’t be prouder of my family legacy of patriotism and sacrifice that lives on not only through my crew, but through the Navy and all of our Armed Forces.