Navy Tradition: Baptism aboard USS Stethem
YOKOSUKA, Japan – Honoring one of the Navy’s oldest traditions, Oliver Stampfli was baptized aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, USS Stethem (DDG 63), May 31.
Capt. Mil Yi, Navy Region Japan chaplain, baptized Oliver, son of Lt. Cmdr. Maryann Stampfli, Stethem’s former Navigator, and her husband Lt. Nick Stampfli, using the ship’s bell on the forecastle.
During the ceremony Chaplain Yi emphasized the importance of tradition both in the Navy and in the history of the United States.
“Our country is based on faith and you keep a faith-based country through traditions,” said Yi.
He believes that performing baptisms in a ship’s bell is important in keeping the tradition alive.
“Baptisms bring family and Sailors together” stated Chaplain Yi after performing his third infant baptism.
This statement held true for Oliver’s baptism as it was attended by family, friends, and shipmates of the Stampflis.
After the ceremony the Oliver’s name was engraved inside the bell making him part of Stethem’s legacy. The ship’s bell remains with a ship throughout its entire commissioned service creating an enduring bond between Stethem and Oliver.
Conducting baptisms aboard Navy ships is a tradition that dates back several hundred years to its origins in the British Royal Navy, where baptisms were carried out in foreign ports or for infants born at sea. The ship’s bell is traditionally used as the christening bowl, upturned and filled with water for the ceremony.