Vet receives medal for battleship work |
By CAROL COMEGNO
ABSECON -- Gov. Christie Whitman presented the state's highest civilian award Friday to the man most credited for the Navy's choice of Camden as the final home of the battleship USS New Jersey.
"You've worked tirelessly to bring the USS New Jersey to Camden as a naval museum and memorial," Whitman told retired Navy Capt. David McGuigan of Haddonfield. "And this has earned you the thanks and appreciation of all New Jerseyans."
McGuigan received the New Jersey Meritorious Service Medal at a meeting held by the Southern New Jersey Development Council.
More than 200 business leaders and legislators attended the session at the Rams Head Inn.
Whitman noted McGuigan volunteered more than 1,000 hours to the battleship effort and said this had an "extraordinary impact" on the Navy.
"This was a surprise and a very proud moment for me," said McGuigan, who will add this medal to the 18 military honors he received in his 27 years of Navy service. "I am impressed with and appreciative of the fact that the governor is so committed to the battleship project."
The medal citation praises him for performing "extremely difficult duty in a clearly exceptional manner" in coordinating and writing much of the 1,700-page application for the Camden site.
McGuigan is the president of the South Jersey-based Home Port Alliance, a coalition of political, government, business and labor leaders that plans to open the ship in the summer of 2001 at the earliest.
He has proposed a $12 million to $15 million memorial project that would include an open or enclosed walkway to the ship featuring different periods of its history from World War II to the 1980s.
On Jan. 20, the Navy chose the come-from-behind alliance, which competed with a Bayonne site supported by the state Battleship Commission.
"Without the captain at the top, we probably would never have had the battleship return home to the Delaware River in Camden," said Sen. John Matheussen, R-Gloucester, a member of the Home Port Alliance.
The ship is temporarily moored at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where it was built.
After the meeting, Whitman said she believes the Battleship Commission will have a role in fund raising and other areas for the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.