Memorial Day ceremony honors NUWC Division Newport employees who made the ultimate sacrifice

Petty Officer 1st Class Larry W. Fletcher, who enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1967 and joined the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport in 1985, was remembered during Division Newport’s annual Memorial Day remembrance ceremony on May 22. Fletcher, who tragically lost his life in a plane crash on January 12, 1988, while serving as an aerial spotter during a torpedo exercise, was among 34 men honored for their ultimate sacrifice.

“It is important that we all understand the value of our contributions to the warfighters, the fleet, the Navy, and the nation, both today and in years past,” said Technical Director Marie Bussiere. “Without the sacrifice and commitment of these brave Americans, Division Newport wouldn’t have evolved into the center of excellence for undersea warfare it is today.”

The event featured Retired Adm. Scott Swift, former commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, as the guest speaker. Swift shared a poignant recollection of the Washington Navy Yard shooting in September 2013, which claimed the lives of 12 civilians. Highlighting the importance of recognizing the contributions of Navy civilian employees, Swift emphasized that every individual, whether in uniform or civilian attire, plays a critical role in national security.

“I look around at this audience, and I see all of you as Sailors,” Swift told the crowd of roughly 75 people. “You all serve your country, you all have focused on committing yourself to national security and national defense through your service in the Navy. Every one of us is a warrior.”

Following Swift’s address, he and Division Newport Commanding Officer Capt. Chad Hennings placed a wreath at the base of the memorial, which bears the names of those who have died while serving at Division Newport. The ceremony also included a rendition of “Taps” by Sgt. Kurt Charles of the 215th Army Band.

Caroline Diette, acting director of Corporate Communications and master of ceremonies, opened the memorial by reading the names of the fallen, each followed by the tolling of the command bell, a tradition that parallels the submarine force’s annual remembrance of lost submarines.

Fletcher’s story of heroism was notably highlighted during the ceremony. Just over a year before his death, Fletcher was hailed as a hero for rescuing Dirk Patriarca, who had crashed his commercial helicopter into the icy waters of Stillwater Basin. Braving the elements, Fletcher and a support contractor managed to save Patriarca, who was suffering from hypothermia.

Fletcher’s dedication and bravery continued until his untimely death at the age of 38. On the day of the crash, he was assisting in a routine torpedo exercise when the Cessna 152, piloted by Michael Pratt, went down. Pratt survived, but Fletcher’s body was not recovered until ten days later.

Born on November 7, 1949, Fletcher left behind his wife, Margaret Rankin Fletcher, and two daughters, Jade Lauren and Trinity Elise. His legacy is remembered through a memorial fund established in his name, and his story serves as a testament to the valor and dedication of those who serve their country, both in uniform and as civilians.

The Memorial Day ceremony at Division Newport serves as a solemn reminder of the sacrifices made by many, honoring their contributions and ensuring their stories are not forgotten.




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