SAN DIEGO (April 1, 2016) Stu Hedley, a retired Navy chief petty officer, World War II veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor, boards the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) and stretches his arms out to greet Chief Aviation Maintenance Administrationman John Mantanona. Hedley came aboard to share his story and celebrate the 123rd chief petty officer birthday. America is an aviation centric amphibious assault ship that supports Marine aviation requirements, from small-scale contingency operations of an expeditionary strike group, to forcible entry missions in major theaters of war. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John Scorza/Released)
American Hero Joins USS America for CPO Birthday

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Navy chief petty officers have led men and women on the deck plates for 123 years. Over time, they have become the icon of the Navy by earning the trust of their subordinates and confidence of their leaders.

The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) celebrated the CPO birthday by hosting Pearl Harbor survivor, retired CPO Stu Hedley and 97.3 KSON's "John and Tammy in the Morning" show.

At 6 a.m., CPOs formed up on the ship's quarterdeck as Hedley was piped aboard. As Hedley passed each chief, he hugged each one and shook their hand. Afterwards, Hedley and the chiefs went to the flight deck to observe "Colors." As the whistles blew and the ensign was raised, Hedley and America's Command Master Chief Kenneth Robertson stood together in front of the Chief's Mess to render honors to the flag of the nation they have all served to defend.

Hedley and many of America's CPOs did live interviews on KSON during which the 95 year-old spoke of his love for San Diego and how he felt excited to see the men and women of today carrying on where he left off.

Following his interview, Hedley and America's CPO mess stood side-by-side as they proudly sang one of the Navy's most beloved songs, "Anchors Aweigh."

"Singing on air was special," said Chief Culinary Specialist Chris Leal. "It brings out a lot of pride in all of us as we sing 'Anchors Aweigh,' especially when it goes out through the airways when you know that people are listening on their way to and from work, at work and at home."

After singing, the group then retired to the Chief's Mess where Hedley shared stories of "the day that will forever live in infamy," December 7, 1941.

During the Pearl Harbor attack, Hedley was a gun pointer on board the USS West Virginia for turret 3, which shot shells 5'2" long and weighed nearly 2,700lbs. Hedley was blown from his turret and was forced to swim ashore. He is not only a Pearl Harbor survivor, but also fought an astounding 13 battles at sea during WWII and the Korean War.

His first order of business was to tell a story of the authority of the CPO. He told a story of a chief who wanted his Sailor to scrub the deck. The Sailor did what he was asked, but complained the entire time it took him to complete the task. Just as he was finishing up, the commanding officer was making his rounds when he heard the Sailor and approached him.

The captain then asked him, "What's your problem son?" The Sailor replied, "Captain, if that chief tells me to jump overboard, do I have to do it?" The Captain told him sincerely, "Son, if that chief tells you to jump overboard, I want you to come straight to my cabin. But, be damn sure when you do, that you're soaking wet."

Hedley conveyed, with astounding detail, his accounts of the attack on Pearl Harbor and told countless stories of the bravery of the men he served with throughout both wars.

"It was awesome to have an American hero come on board USS America for our birthday," said Robertson, "I got goose bumps hearing him tell stories of what happened during his career and what he went through that day (during the attack on Pearl Harbor)."

In a message to all the chiefs in the Navy, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens thanked all the CPOs for their service and sacrifices.

"As we celebrate 123 years of the chief petty officer, it is not lost upon me the endless sacrifices you and your families make every day in leading, mentoring and training Sailors under your charge," said Stevens. "I once read that legacy is the lantern that lights the path for others to follow, and I have no doubt that the path you lit will shine brightly for generations to come."

For more news from USS America, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/lha6/.

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