Almost a year in the making, the celebration of the 175th anniversary of Platte City’s founding turned into a well-attended success, featuring live music, pomp and moving addresses.More than a hundred guests were on hand Saturday, July 4 to help honor that event while also celebrating Independence Day and the dedication of an anchor from a U.S. Navy ship that bore the name of the Platte River, set to be permanently on display in Platte City. Held underneath the shelter at Settler’s Crossing Park, the hour-long ceremony took place with the waters of that very river lapping by in the background.
Platte City mayor Frank Offutt hoped the combined celebration involving citizens helped “set the anchor for the next 175 years.”
“When the county was celebrating its 175th anniversary, the fingers started pointing at me asking, ‘Mayor, what are you going to do for the city on its 175th?” he said. “Well, of course, not having a great response it was time to start thinking once again. … The journey over the last 12 months has been fairly interesting.
“We started with the idea of having a ceremony but what to make it based upon?”
The answer came in the form of a 13-ton anchor, scrapped off the USS Platte (AO-186), a decommissioned U.S. Navy Cimarron class fleet oiler.
Offutt found information on the USS Platte — like all oilers — named after rivers and set out to acquire an artifact from the ship. The second boat to bear the name after the USS Platte (AO-24), ended up at Southern Recycling in Amelia, La. after being decommissioned in 1999 after 16 years in service.
In January, the Platte City Board of Aldermen approved the expenditure to have the anchor, which measures 13 feet high and 12 feet wide, shipped to Platte City. The relic arrived in March and was placed at Settler’s Crossing Park at the end of Main Street where it continues to sit, waiting to be set on a permanent base for future display.
The ceremony concluded with the public unveiling of a plaque that details the significance behind the anchor. Platte City will now be the unofficial home port for the USS Platte, setting her anchor for the final time on the river for which she was named.
“Though she’s gone, she will always be to me the fifth and the finest and one that you can be proud of to carry her namesake: the Platte,” said Charles Schley, a retired Chief Boatswain’s Mate with the United States Navy who served six years on the USS Platte (AO-186) and served on its precommissioning crew and received a key to the city on behalf of all who served on the ship.
Schley is considered a plank owner of the ship honored, having served on its commissioning crew. He received the key to the city prior to his address and flew in from his home in Virginia for the ceremony, taking the rare chance to travel since retiring from the Navy in 1997 after 24 years of service.
“As soon as I retired, my wife said, ‘Let’s take a cruise,” he joked. “I said, ‘I’ve seen enough blue water, gray water, brown water for a lifetime.”
The celebration started and ended with military music from the 312th U.S. Army Band from Lawrence, Kan. under the direction of Chief Warrant Officer Two Nicholas Proctor.
In between, City of Platte City officials received a flag recently flown from the USS Missouri (SSN-780) submarine’s sail and poignant words from Offutt, Schley and keynote speaker Carlton Philpot, a retired Commander in the U.S. Navy. Members of the VFW Post 4055 honor guard also rendered a gun salute right after the unveiling of the plaque.
Philpot’s lengthy address focused on dedication, faith and recognizing the true meaning behind celebrating America’s independence.
“What is important is what is anchored in your soul, what is anchored in your heart,” he said. “What are your beliefs? How committed are you to this country and what it stands for?”