WASHINGTON — Navy Builder 1st Class Hilary K. Lemelin of Milan, currently serving on the USS Constitution in Boston, Mass., is a member of a four-person team that recently designed and built the heritage desks for the Vice President of the United States and the Secretary of the Navy using materials from Navy ships.
Lemelin, a 2009 graduate of Berlin High School, has served in the Navy for six years and reenlisted for four years of Navy service aboard USS Constitution on Dec. 4, 2020.
March 27 was the 227th anniversary of President George Washington signing the Naval Armament Act of 1794 which authorized the construction of the frigate USS Constitution, still in commission, stationed in Boston, Mass.
More than two centuries later, part of the historic ship can be found in the White House Office of the Vice President and in the Pentagon office of the Secretary of the Navy in the form of executive desks emblematic of the special bond between the nation’s civilian leaders and the United States Navy.
“I am thrilled to be the first custodian of such an impressive and historical desk,” said acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker. “I appreciate the creativity and hard work that went in to designing and putting it together. I am sure future secretaries will share my admiration for the history and heritage of this desk that was built from reclaimed historical materials from a number of naval ships.”
On loan from the Naval History Heritage Command, Sailors built the vice president’s desk of reclaimed materials from the renowned frigate USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, America’s Ship of State, and the only currently commissioned U.S. Navy vessel to have sunk an enemy warship. The desk was presented to the Office of the Vice President shortly after the inauguration.
Last month, NHHC presented to the Office of the Secretary of the Navy a desk similarly made from USS Constitution wood, plus parts from one of Constitution’s sister ships USS Chesapeake, the sloop-of-war museum ship USS Constellation, and the battleships USS Texas (BB 35), USS Arizona (BB 39), and USS New Jersey (BB 62). Harker hosted the office call at which the hand-crafted desk was presented by NHHC Director Rear Adm. Sam Cox, U.S. Navy, retired, who commissioned builds of both desks.
“With the example of the Resolute desk in the President’s Oval Office, I wanted to provide our civilian leaders with similar, tangible reminders of more than 200 years of outstanding service from American Sailors,” said Cox. “These desks honor our nation’s past and reflect our resolve to ensure America’s maritime superiority well into the future.”
The SECNAV desk was the brainchild of Harker’s predecessor, 77th Secretary of the Navy, Kenneth J. Braithwaite who was able to visit the National Museum of the U.S. Navy Feb. 21 to see the completed project before it was delivered to the Pentagon and accepted by Harker.
The desks were constructed by a team of U.S. Navy Construction Battalion (Seabee) personnel as a training evolution to hone their subspecialty skills as master craftsmen in woodworking and metalworking, assisted by the expert historic shipwrights of NHHC Detachment Boston.
Construction of the desks began Jan. 4 at the Washington Navy Yard in the National Museum of the U.S. Navy’s workshop. Work on the desks was completed on Feb. 19.
In addition to Lemelin, those building the desks included: Steelworker Second Class Elijohana Cole of Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command in Washington; Senior Chief Constructionman Noah W. Zeigler of Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Atlantic in Norfolk, Va.; and Builder Second Class Donald F. Morse IV of Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command in Washington.