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Press Release

MSC PAO 98-29
July 10, 1998
For more information, contact:
Marge Holtz or Lisa Gates
(202) 685-5055

New Navy ship honors Army hero

USNS Seay (T-AKR 302) was christened June 20 in New Orleans, La. The 950-foot long large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ship is the third of seven ships being built by Avondale Industries, Inc. USNS Seay is scheduled to be delivered to Military Sealift Command next year.
Pauline Harrison couldn't harness her emotions or fight back tears during ceremonies christening a Navy ship in her son's name.

Overcome with grief and sad memories, Harrison sobbed as a 950-foot-long large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ship was christened USNS Seay on June 20 at Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans, La. Because the ship will be used to preposition tons of Army equipment, Navy officials decided to name the vessel in honor of a soldier. They chose Army Sgt. William "Bill" Seay, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action in Vietnam on Aug. 25, 1968.

Seay's name already graces five military parade fields, two tugboats, two officers' barracks, a training center, a movie theater and a shopping mall. This new recognition has caused mixed feelings for his family.

"It refreshes the memory that he's gone, and that's painful. But God has reasons for doing things and we're not to question that," Harrison said later.

"It's a very sad thing, but I'm glad Billy hasn't been forgotten," said Seay's sister, Sarah Lee, who was 23 when her 19-year-old brother was killed. "When they do these things every few years, there's no way he can be forgotten. We try to see the positive side."

Seay had been a driver in the 62nd Transportation Medium Truck Company, 7th Transportation Battalion, 48th Transportation Group, near Ap Hi, Vietnam. While on a resupply mission, his unit came under intense rocket, machine gun and automatic weapon fire from a reinforced North Vietnamese army battalion.

"He didn't just defend. As enemy fire intensified, so to did his response," said Air Force Gen. Walter Kross, Commander, U.S. Transportation Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., at the christening ceremony.

Seay picked off a sniper. Then as grenades rained down on him and his buddies, he repeatedly rose from cover and, braving enemy fire, pitched the grenades back, killing several of the enemy.

"Painfully wounded, he continued to return fire and encouraged his fellow soldiers until he detected three enemy soldiers penetrating his position, preparing to fire on his comrades," Kross said. "Without thought for his own safety, in severe pain and with only his left hand usable, he stood and took them under fire, killing all three of them." Seay fell mortally wounded from a sniper bullet.

Military Sealift Command will operate USNS Seay. The ship's roll-on/roll-off design enables fast, easy loading and unloading of up to 1,000 Army helicopters, tanks, trucks and other military vehicles. USNS Seay is 950 feet in length, has a beam of 105 feet, and displaces about 62,000 tons fully loaded. The diesel-powered ship has about 380,000 square feet of cargo space and can sustain speeds up to 24 knots.

"USNS Seay will be a great ship because she will epitomize the heroic legacy of Sergeant Seay," stated Vice Adm. Jim Perkins, USN, Commander, Military Sealift Command.

USNS Seay is the third of the seven large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships being built by Avondale Industries, Inc. Most of the large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships are being named for Medal of Honor recipients. The first two conversion LMSRs honor Army Medal of Honor recipients Master Sgt. Gary I. Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randall D. Shughart, who died in Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993 while trying to rescue a downed Army helicopter crew. USNS Shughart was christened on May 7, 1996, at National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, in San Diego, Calif., and USNS Gordon, on July 4, 1996, at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va.

Article written by Rudi Williams, American Forces Press Service.