By: Sen. Susan M. Collins
On October 3, 1993, during the Battle of Mogadishu, U.S. Army Master Sergeant Gary Gordon—a native of Lincoln, Maine—gave his life to save the crew of a Black Hawk helicopter that had been shot down over the city. Realizing that the injured crew could not survive an advance of enemy forces with only aerial coverage, MSG Gordon requested that his helicopter mission commander deposit him on the ground to defend the wounded crew. The mission commander twice refused, due to the extreme danger, but relented on MSG Gordon’s third request because of his persistence and forceful passion.
Once on the ground, MSG Gordon, along with fellow sniper Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart, fought their way to the injured crew, extracted all four injured soldiers from the gun-shot riddled aircraft, and fought valiantly until out of ammunition. It is estimated MSG Gordon and SFC Shughart killed more than 25 enemy forces before they were killed, saving the lives of the crew. Their extraordinary heroism gained widespread recognition as the subject of the book and movie Black Hawk Down. For his bravery, Gary Gordon was awarded the nation’s highest military honor—the Medal of Honor—posthumously.
Over the years, I have attended numerous commemorative events in honor of MSG Gordon. Most recently, I attended the unveiling ceremony for MSG Gordon’s Medal of Honor Memorial in Lincoln in August 2021. The 10-foot bronze statue was commissioned by the Town of Lincoln and the Special Forces Charitable Trust, and it reflects the eternal gratitude and respect they have for MSG Gordon.
MSG Gordon represents the best of Maine and the best of America’s service men and women. That’s why I recently wrote to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, urging him to name a DDG-51 destroyer built at Bath Iron Works after this Medal of Honor soldier. From the patriots who won America’s independence to the heroes of our time, many ships of the United States Navy bear the names of those who have demonstrated extraordinary valor in the defense of freedom. There is no doubt that MSG Gordon is deserving of this honor.
In my letter, which was signed by my Maine congressional colleagues along with Gov. Janet Mills, we emphasized that MSG Gordon’s service and sacrifice encapsulate American heroism and courage. His story is one that should be honored and remembered by naming a Bath-built warship the USS Gary Gordon.
During my service in the Senate, I have had the opportunity to participate in many U.S. Navy ship christenings at BIW and have seen the pride officers and crew have in their ship’s namesake. The warfighting capability of a DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class destroyer exemplifies MSG Gordon’s fighting spirit and would be an inspiration to all who would have the privilege to serve aboard the USS Gary Gordon. With such a namesake, the crew of the ship would be inspired to serve with the same perseverance and bravery as MSG Gordon.
The integrity, devotion to duty, and courage that define MSG Gordon were forged right here in Maine, in his family and his community. A memorial to MSG Gordon that stands in front of the Lincoln Town Office describes a special fraternity whose “common bond is uncommon valor.” Those are fitting words to commemorate a Medal of Honor soldier who fought with exceptional heroism and who gave his life so that his comrades might live. Wherever it sails, a U.S. Navy ship named in his honor would be a powerful reminder that our nation has been blessed throughout our history by ordinary citizens who possess the character and the strength to do extraordinary things.