Sunday, May 20, 2007
Le T. Phung credits the USS Sterett with saving her life: The ship rescued her after a week adrift in the South China Sea when she fled Vietnam nearly 25 years ago. On Saturday, Phung was the matron of honor for the christening of the latest Navy warship to bear the Sterett name: a 510-foot destroyer. It is the fourth warship named after Lt. Andrew Sterett, who served aboard the frigate Constellation during the U.S. Navy's first victory against a foreign navy. The third Sterett rescued Phung on July 22, 1983. She said that soon after getting on a cramped boat with 125 people she realized no one knew where they were headed.
USS Sterett (DDG-104)The engine died within a day and the boat drifted. Bad weather struck. There was no food. Then aircraft flew over and a U.S. Navy ship appeared on the horizon. Hours later, she and the others were clambering up a net aboard the USS Sterett. Since being rescued, Phung has earned a doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1997 and is now doing research for the University of Illinois College of Medicine. "It changed my life. It was the turning point for me," Phung said. "Without the Sterett, there wouldn't be me today." Le Phung holds streamers following the christening of the destroyer Sterett at Bath Iron WorksAmong those in attendance Saturday were more than 80 sailors, including eight World War II veterans, who'd served on previous Steretts. The first Navy warship to bear the Sterett name served in World War I. The second was highly decorated for action in the Pacific in World War II. Sterett commanded a gun battery when the frigate Constellation captured the French frigate L'Insurgente during an undeclared "quasi-war" in February 1799.