In the fall of 2018, soon after the announcement that the United States Navy would honor the people of Cleveland by naming a ship for the city for the fourth time in American history, a small group of dedicated citizens began planning for the ship’s commissioning. Unlike the previous three U.S. Navy ships named for Cleveland, the future USS Cleveland (LCS 31) will be commissioned right here in her namesake city. Currently under construction by Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisconsin, LCS 31 is anticipated to be completed and added to the Naval Vessel Register in 2023. Following commissioning, she will be assigned to Commander, Littoral Combat Ship Squadron TWO and homeported in Mayport, Florida.
By early 2019, it became clear that the vision of the nascent team of volunteers would necessitate a more formal, permanent structure than initially conceived. Exemplifying the gritty, competitive spirit of Clevelanders, the board envisioned something far greater than the traditional week of events surrounding most ship’s commissioning ceremonies. The group outlined plans for a multi-decade initiative that would: (1) bring the ship to life at commissioning; (2) support the ship’s crew during her service life (20-25 years); and (3) return the ship to Cleveland upon her retirement from Naval service to serve as an enduring memorial and museum that would honor all four U.S. Navy ships to have carried the name Cleveland.
After many months of diligent effort by an expanded Board of Directors, on November 20, 2019, the USS Cleveland Legacy Foundation received its official recognition from the federal government as a 501(c)(3) public charity incorporated in the State of Ohio. The board began holding monthly meetings, hired its first executive director, and undertook an ambitious plan to raise $4 million to $5 million to support its three-phase strategic plan.
Today, the USS Cleveland Legacy Foundation is underway as a nonprofit organization with strong initial support from Greater Cleveland’s business community, nonprofit organizations, and charitable foundations, as well as a growing list of individual donors. Like her predecessors, the future USS Cleveland will represent the people, achievements, history, and future of Cleveland, Ohio. From school children to senior citizens, from military veterans to the families of those currently serving, from East Siders to West Siders, the USS Cleveland Legacy Foundation and the four ships it honors represents an opportunity to celebrate all that is good about one of America’s great cities.