The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 28, 2014

State has a rich military tradition

PHILADELPHIA — The terrorist attack launched against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, was at least the sixth major military conflict to take place within the commonwealth’s borders.

The others were the French and Indian War, Pontiac’s War, Revolutionary War, Whiskey Rebellion and Civil War. Erie served as a naval base during the War of 1812. And Pennsylvania residents have fought in places as disparate as Germany and Vietnam.

There are shrines dedicated to their sacrifices across the state: Gettysburg, Valley Forge, Fort Ligonier and elsewhere.

Now, there will be the USS Somerset sailing the seas.

The ship, which is to be stationed in San Diego, is named after the county where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed when passengers and crew fought back against al-Qaida hijackers on Sept. 11.

“It’s important because what happened in Somerset County was the first victory in the war on terror,” said U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, from Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, which includes part of Somerset County.

“It was where 40 everyday Americans said no to terrorism.”

It is likely the terrorists intended to crash the plane into a Washington, D.C., target.

“Had it not been for their actions, the terrorists would have reached their intended target, and, for sure, countless more lives would have been lost, and, perhaps, even changed the outcome of history as we know it,” said Capt. Thomas L. Dearborn, the USS Somerset’s commanding officer.

The vessel is scheduled to be commissioned today at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia.

“It’s a great testament to the state to have this take place,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. “We have such a strong military tradition. Obviously, whenever it’s possible to highlight the commitment the state has we’re honored.”

USS Somerset has two sister ships named after other locations that were attacked on Sept. 11: USS Arlington and USS New York. There were four other U.S. Navy vessels previously called Somerset. This is the first named after the local county.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at

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