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Navy names ship for Cesar Chavez

Cargo ship will serve as combat support

One of the newest ships in the U.S. Navy’s fleet has been named after Mexican-American civil rights activist and Navy veteran Cesar Chavez, it was announced Wednesday.

Chavez joined the Navy when he was just 17 years old and served during WWII.

"Cesar Chavez inspired young Americans to do what is right and what is necessary to protect our freedoms and our country," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in a statement.

"The Cesar Chavez will sail hundreds of thousands of miles and will bring support and assistance to thousands upon thousands of people. His example will live on in this great ship."

The vessel is the 14th Lewis and Clark-class cargo ship. It has been the tradition of the Lewis and Clark ships to be named after America’s pioneers and explorers.

"This proud ship will honor one American. But the story of my father's family is a lot like the story of so many other immigrants, especially Latinos," said Paul F. Chavez, the labor leader’s son and president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

"They came to America seeking a better life. In so doing, they brought to their new land a fervent patriotism that has been demonstrated over and over again throughout the storied history of our nation.”

The ship is being built by General Dynamics in San Diego and will serve among a combat fleet by delivering ammunition, food, fuel and other dry cargo to U.S. and allied ships.

It’s the latest honor for the Chicano activist and United Farm Workers founder, who died in 1993.

This year, President Obama declared March 31 to be Cesar Chavez Day. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 1994. The National Parks Service is currently considering several sites, including the Yuma farm where Chavez was born, for a national landmark to pay tribute to the man who fought hard for the rights of farmworkers.

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U.S. Navy photo

The Navy has named one of its Lewis and Clark-class supply ships, now under construction, after Mexican-American civil rights activist Cesar Chavez.