Metro

USS Constitution salutes Vietnam veterans, commemorates war

People stood on Castle Island with flags as the USS Constitution was saluted by the Concord Independent Battery (rear) and the 101st Field Artillery that fired in a return salute.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
People stood on Castle Island with flags as the USS Constitution was saluted by the Concord Independent Battery (rear) and the 101st Field Artillery that fired in a return salute.

The USS Constitution is typically seen as a symbol of the War of 1812, but on Friday, it commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.

Nearly 500 Vietnam War veterans joined crew members and others aboard the ship, which departed from Charlestown Navy Yard at 10 a.m., according to a statement from the USS Constitution. The ship sailed to Castle Island to fire a 21-gun salute toward the South Boston Vietnam Memorial at noon, and the Concord Battery and 101st Field Artillery from the Massachusetts National Guard returned the salute.

Neither Boston nor the ship have direct ties to the war, but USS Constitution spokesman Casey Scoular said the event was meant to remember the sacrifices of veterans who fought in the war.

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“It was very important to give the Vietnam veterans a thank you,” Scoular said. “We thought it would be nice to essentially thank them for what they did.”

The Constitution fired a 21-gun salute from the ship, and the 101st Field Artillery returned with a 19-gun salute.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
The Constitution fired a 21-gun salute from the ship, and the 101st Field Artillery returned with a 19-gun salute.
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A second 17-gun salute was also fired as the ship passed the US Coast Guard station on Atlantic Avenue — the former site of Edmund Hartt’s shipyard, where the USS Constitution was built and launched, according to the statement.

The boat returned to the Navy Yard around 1 p.m., Scoular said. Governor Charlie Baker spoke during a ceremony, along with military leaders and distinguished Vietnam veterans, officials said.

“I hope that people remember the sacrifices that our service members made for our great country during this time,” Scoular said.

The ceremony was part of a nationwide 13-year commemoration of the war’s 50th anniversary, which started in 2012 after the secretary of defense’s office fostered the program to remember the war for more than a decade on Memorial Day.

Hundreds gathered to watch the event.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Hundreds gathered to watch the event.

Laney Ruckstuhl can be reached at laney.ruckstuhl@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laneyruckstuhl.