Editor’s note: The following are remarks made by U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer on Thursday on the floor of the United States Senate. Schumer spoke regarding deceased A New York Native, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, and the amendment he will be filing in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 to name the next appropriate and available U.S. Navy warship in her honor.
Now on a very important topic that affects New York and America. The men and women who wear this nation’s uniform are some of the most inspiring people you’ll ever meet. There is no shortage of stories of their valor, of their courage under fire, of their sacrifices, made voluntarily, on behalf of a grateful nation.
But I have the responsibility and the honor this morning of sharing the story of a particularly exceptional service member from my state of New York, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent.
Shannon Kent was from upstate New York. She was born in Oswego. She was raised in Pine Plains. She graduated from Stissing Mountain High School and left college to join the Navy, following in the footsteps of her father and her uncle, a police commander and a firefighter, who both were first responders on Sept. 11th. Duty ran in the veins of the Kent family.
Shannon was a pioneer in the special operations community. She was one of the first, if not the first, women to pass the course required to join Navy SEALS on missions. That’s amazing in itself. Shannon was an outstanding linguist and a seasoned cryptologist whose work “contributed directly to the capture of hundreds of enemy insurgents and severely degraded enemy combat capability,” earning her a slew of accolades, including multiple commendation medals, the Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star. What an amazing woman – brave, strong, brilliant, large body of knowledge, amazing.
Her courageous efforts and groundbreaking achievements have inspired numerous programs for integrating women into Special Operations Forces, with combat jobs and special operations training now open to female service members. Senior Chief Kent was living proof that women could not only keep up with, but lead, our nation’s most highly-trained and capable service members.
Of course, Shannon was more than just a sailor—she was also a loving wife to her husband, Joe, a caring mother to her two children, a cancer survivor, a scholar, and an unstoppable athlete who stayed true to her New York roots, often going out for runs in her faded Yankees cap.
On January 16 of this year, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent was among four Americans and more than a dozen others killed in a suicide bombing in Northern Syria. Senior Chief Kent was on her fifth combat deployment, once again conducting some of the nation’s most classified and dangerous missions.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent deserves to be honored in a manner befitting of her noble service to our country and enduring contributions to the United States Navy. So today I am proudly introducing an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill urging the United States Navy to name a ship after New York native and American hero, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent.
Of the 289 active duty ships in the Navy, only five, only five, are named in honor of women. Of the fifty-three named vessels currently under construction, only one, just one, is named in honor of a woman. And no naval ship has ever been named for a woman who fought and died in combat like Shannon Kent did.
It is time to address this disparity and recognize the integral role that female service members play in protecting our great nation.
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, the namesake of the USS Hopper, once said: “A ship in port is safe; but that’s not what ships are built for. Sail out to sea and do new things.” That’s what Admiral Hopper said.
Well, Senior Chief Shannon Kent was built to set out to sea to do new things. So should we. I urge my colleagues to support my amendment to name the first naval vessel after a woman who has fought and died in combat: the brave, patriotic, wonderful Shannon Kent.