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Source: United States Navy Pacific Fleet 1

by GM1 Canterbury

02 February 2024

San Diego – For the first time in twenty-seven years, the Fitzgerald family conducted a visit onboard the legendary destroyer named after their father and grandfather, LT William Fitzgerald.

LT William Fitzgerald joined the Navy as an enlisted sailor and earned his commission on the 15th of June, 1963. On the 7th of August, 1967, LT Fitzgerald was mortally wounded while covering the escape of his men while under heavy Viet Cong fire. LT Fitzgerald earned the US Navy’s highest decoration for valor, the Navy Cross, as a result of his sacrifice and actions in Vietnam. LT Fitzgerald’s late wife, Betty Ann Fitzgerald, was designated as the ship’s sponsor for USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), named in his honor, and dedicated the remainder of her life to being an active member of the ship. Upon her passing, that honor was inherited by her daughter, Lynda Shultz.

Hailing from Montpelier, VT, Lynda Shultz and her family were hosted by the officers and crew of the Arleigh Burke class destroyer for a tour of their namesake’s vessel. Once onboard, they conducted tours of the ship’s warfighting and engineering spaces. They ate in the Crew’s Mess, Chiefs’ Mess, and Wardroom, and were the guests of honor for a ceremony highlighting the family’s contribution to United States naval history. At the ceremony, the family shared a scrapbook highlighting LT Fitzgerald’s Naval career and achievements with the Commanding Officer, CDR Jayson Larsen.

During her time onboard, Lynda Shultz delivered a speech at the command’s All Hands Call where she expressed the importance of each Sailor and how the USS Fitzgerald helps keep her father’s legacy alive. Lynda explained her late mother’s tradition of hand writing and sending Christmas cards to each Fitzgerald sailor annually. Due to the ship being homeported overseas for an extended period of time, the Fitzgerald family was unable to visit until this year.

CDR Larsen visited the Fitzgerald family in March of 2023 and told them the ship would be in San Diego for most of the year. Upon hearing this, Lynda Shultz “had an overwhelming urge to fulfill [her] mother’s dream of hand-delivering the Christmas cards.” Lynda was grateful to finally be given the chance to do this.

CDR Larsen said “it was an inspiration to be in the presence of the family that keeps LT Fitzgerald’s legacy alive and that the Fitzgerald crew proudly represents every day. We are so grateful for Lynda’s ongoing support as the ship’s sponsor, which makes being a Fitzgerald Sailor so unique.”

The FITZGERALD crew executed their holiday leave period in high spirits following the ceremony. In early 2024, the ship is undergoing preparations for basic phase trials in anticipation of being certified as deployment-ready.

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