Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Geronimo Aquino, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West Det., Japan
YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- USS Stethem (DDG 63) honored the ship's namesake with a posthumous frocking ceremony Aug. 24.
Steelworker (SW/DV) 2nd Class Robert Dean Stethem was frocked to the honorary rank of master chief petty officer, 25 years after he was killed during the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in June 1985.
Stethem was singled out by Lebanese hijackers because of his military status and was badly beaten and ultimately murdered after their demands were not met. Throughout his ordeal Stethem did not yield; instead, he acted with fortitude and courage and helped his fellow passengers endure by his example.
"The idea is simple," said Cmdr. Hank Adams, USS Stethem commanding officer. "If 'Robbie' had lived and stayed in the Navy, surely 25 years later, he would have risen through the ranks to become a master chief."
When the Stethem chief petty officer mess presented the idea to Adams, he said he wholeheartedly agreed, signed a request for the promotion and forwarded it to the office of the master chief petty officer of the Navy (MCPON). A few months later, the request was approved and a heroic Sailor was honored.
"The strength and character that he demonstrated in TWA flight 847 allowed him to face extreme adversity with rarely good grace," said Adams. "With that strength and character he would have been propelled him to the ranks of master chief, over the course of 25 years career, and during those times just think of how many Sailors he would have positively influenced along the way."
Stethem's brother, retired Chief Boatswain's Mate (SEAL/EOD) Kenneth J. Stethem, attended the ceremony and served as honorary guest speaker.
Kenneth thanked all of those in attendance and the command for making his brother's promotion a reality. He then read the "Chief Petty Officer's Creed," as he and the area chief petty officers welcomed his brother to the mess. Kenneth received Robbie's master chief anchors, a bronzed master chief combination cover and the certificate of appointment from the MCPON's office on behalf of the Stethem family.
"I believe that we should be steadfast and courageous in the face of our enemies," Kenneth said. "I believe that we should always remember that the greatest enemy we will ever face is not a man, or missile, or ship, or submarines or a combination of all of them; the greatest enemy we will ever face is our own ignorance, which prevents us from overcoming our adversaries and accomplishing our mission.
"We should seek and speak the truth; we should wrap ourselves in honor and thank God everyday for the opportunity to make a difference while we are still here. If we do that, then like 'Rob,' when he's gone and when you're gone, we can continue to make a difference."
Chief Fire Controlman (SW) Daniel Watts concluded the ceremony by rendering honors to the command's newest master chief, announcing his arrival through an all-CPO honors sideboys team.
"Master Chief Construction (DV) Robert Dean Stethem arriving," Watts said.