Gov. John Hickenlooper unveiled a bronze rendition of the crest of the USS Colorado in a ceremony Friday afternoon at the state Capitol, where the plaque will hang permanently as a reminder that the advanced nuclear attack submarine bears the state's name.
"We have every expectation that the new USS Colorado will faithfully continue representing this state's pioneering spirit and be able to go places no one else can go - 'by land and sea untamed,' which I believe is the motto of the ship," said Hickenlooper, surrounded by lawmakers and civic leaders who have led the state's involvement with the submarine as it nears its commissioning.
"This is a landmark day and begins several festivities to honor the crew of the USS Colorado and its commissioning into the U.S. Navy fleet," state Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, told Colorado Politics before the unveiling.
In recent years, Gardner has sponsored legislation to fund Colorado's participation in the vessel's launch, as well as allow the plaque to be placed at the Capitol - "You thought the Navy was bureaucratic," he joked, "you ought to try to get something hung at the Capitol" - and to create a special license plate honoring the submarine.
The $2.7 billion, 370-foot Virginia-class submarine, the fourth Navy vessel to bear the state's name since the Civil War, was christened in December 2016 and will be commissioned next Saturday in Groton, Conn.
The ship's crest, which incorporates the Latin motto "Terra Marique Indomila," was designed by Lt. j.g. Mike Nielson of Arvada, a member of the submarine's crew, whose entry was chosen in a worldwide contest from among more than 100 submissions. The judges who picked Nielson's entry were not aware he was in the Navy or from Colorado. The bronze depiction of the crest on the plaque, donated by the Anschutz Foundation, was created by renowned Native American sculptor Doug Hyde.
"The Anschutz Foundation is proud to be here today and excited this day is finally here," Christian Anschutz, the foundation's president, said before the ceremony. "We couldn't be more proud to stand behind the sailors who are going to serve on the USS Colorado and what this means to our country."
The charity's founder, Phil Anschutz, owns the parent company of Colorado Politics and The Gazette.
State Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, has also sponsored bills related to submarine.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, not only to see a new Navy boat commissioned, but the USS Colorado, which carries on the rich tradition in the Navy, where the last USS Colorado was commissioned almost 100 years ago," Liston said, referring to a battleship commissioned in 1923 that earned seven battle stars in World War II.
State Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, another sponsor of legislation involving the submarine, said the occasion reminded him that a distant ancestor is considered the first combat submariner in history. During the Revolutionary War, the lawmaker said, Ezra Lee of Lyme, Conn., piloted a craft called the Turtle in an unsuccessful attempt to attach an underwater explosive to a British warship in New York Harbor.
"It's a terrific honor to have a submarine named for our state," Lee said. "There is a certain irony for me to stand here, hundreds of years later as a sponsor of a resolution to honor a ship named after the great state of Colorado."