Bittersweet for Family as Schumer Proposes Naming Ship for Fallen Female Sailor
Sister of Shannon Kent, killed in January suicide-bombing attack in Syria, berates senator, saying it’s ‘a little too late’
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D–NY) is calling on the U.S. Navy to name one of its ships after fallen Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent.
Kent was born and raised in New York State and dedicated her life to the service. In January 2019, at 35, she was killed by a suicide bomber while deployed in Manbij, Syria. She died along with four other Americans on her team, and a dozen others.
In an address to the Senate, Schumer referred to Kent as an unstoppable force who stayed true to her New York roots. He called her brave, strong and brilliant, someone with a large body of knowledge.
She deserves to be honored in a “manner befitting of her noble service to our country and enduring contributions to the United States Navy,” Schumer stated.
If Schumer’s push is approved, Kent will be the first female soldier who died in combat to have a ship named after her. She earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart during her tenure.
Out of the 289 active duty ships in the Navy, just five are named in honor of women. The amendment is to be filed in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year.
Kent felt a calling to serve her country after seeing her father and uncle serve as first responders when the World Trade Center’s twin towers came down in New York City on 9/11. The incident enticed her to leave college early in 2003 to enlist and learn Arabic, which was just one of the seven languages she spoke.
As a cryptologist, she worked alongside Navy SEALS on their missions, one of very few women given such a task.
Kent made her way through the ranks and was deployed to the Middle East five times. She then tried to shift gears and applied for the military’s Ph.D. program in clinical psychology.
Kent had recently beat thyroid cancer and, after the births of her two young sons, felt she could not be deployed again. She and her husband believed the Ph.D. program would be a way to continue serving her country while building a family. But the department rejected her – for health-related reasons.
She tried to work around the rejection by asking legislators to change the rules, but she got nowhere.
In an interview with The Media Line, Kent’s 26-year-old sister, Mariah Smith, spoke candidly about the efforts her sister made to change legislation. According to Smith, Kent contacted everyone, including Schumer, Maryland’s senator and a load of members of the House.
“None of them helped her. Only Rep Walter Jones from North Carolina helped,” Smith said. “She went to him [Schumer]. But where was he then? Now he wants to name a ship after her. I mean it’s amazing. But when Shann really could have used him, he didn’t care.”
Because she couldn’t make the career change, Kent continued working, still trying congress and ultimately accepting a deployment, her sixth to the Middle East, when she was called. It was her last one.
“It’s an enormous honor, but it’s a little late. It’s easy for them to try to look good for votes now,” Smith said.
The secretary of the Navy is the only person with the authority to approve namings. Aircraft carriers are typically named after U.S. presidents, while destroyers are named for deceased members of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, as well as secretaries of the Navy. The list goes on.
Lt. Joshua Kelsey, public affairs officer for the secretary of the Navy, said he was aware of Senator Schumer’s request and appreciated it.
“Senior Chief Kent served our nation with distinction and honor, and we agree that she is a worthy recommendation. I can assure you she will be given every consideration when names are chosen for future ships,” Kelsey wrote to The Media Line in an email.
“Naming a ship,” Kelsey added, “is the highest honor the secretary of the Navy can bestow, and naming a ship in honor of any sailor, marine or civilian is a big story, not just for the Navy, but also for the friends and family members of the namesake.”
Kent is survived by her husband Joe, a former Green Beret, and two young boys.