PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WKRG) — Decades after his renowned impact on the United States during the Vietnam War, Mobile native Jeremiah Denton Jr.’s bravery and heroism are still being recognized today. 

A keel authentication ceremony was held at Ingalls Shipbuilding Tuesday morning to mark the beginning of USS Jeremiah Denton, a guided Missile Destroyer that will be built for the U.S. Navy.

The Arleigh Burke-class ship will be designated: Destroyer Jeremiah Denton DDG 129. During the Vietnam War, Denton was a U.S. Navy pilot who was shot down and held captive by the North Vietnamese for years.

He famously blinked the word “torture” by morse code while being filmed for propaganda purposes by the North Vietnamese Government. He and dozens of other pilots were tortured and interrogated for years.

Denton was awarded The Navy Cross for his courage and in 1980 he was elected to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate. In March of 2014, Denton passed away at 89-years-old.

Two of his daughters, Mary Denton Lewis and Madeleine Denton Doak, along with Mississippi U.S. Senator, Roger Wicker, were among the speakers at Tuesday’s ceremony that honored Denton’s legacy.

The Denton sisters, who are sponsors of the ship, had their initials welded into the ship’s keel to carry on their dad’s rememberance. Both said they are pleased and honored to be able to continue their relationship with the navy and to have their dad be recognized for the sacrifices he made.

Madeleine Denton Doak has a message for the future crew members of DDG 129.

“I’d like for them to know who he was and what he did and why he did it and why it was important,” said Doak. “This Country is so unique and special, and we need to defend it.”

Senator Wicker said these 400-foot-long ships are the “Backbone of the navy.”

“To me, this USS Jeremiah Denton represents another step towards rebuilding our navy pass 355 ships and preserving the peace both in Europe and in Asia,” said Senator Wicker.

USS Jeremiah Denton is only the third of its kind. A ship like DDG 129 takes roughly four to five years to build and a DDG program manager, John Fillmore, said they are about 25% done.

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