Sunday, April 17, 2011

Washington DC April 15, 2011

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April 15, 2011 meeting in Washington DC office of Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R. NJ)

From left: Chipp Reid, Rep. Frank LoBiondo, Greg Sykora, Walt Gregory, Sally Hastings, Mayor Jack Glasser, Bill Kelly, Dean Somers, Michael Caputo and Rep. Mike Rogers (R. Mich.)

Press Release -
Somers Point Historical Society/City of Somers Point, NJ
Monday, April 18, 2011

A delegation from Somers Point, New Jersey traveled to Washington, DC on Friday April 15, 2011 and met with Congressmen Mike Rogers (R- MI) and Frank Lobiondo (R-NJ) to discuss the recently introduced House Resolution that calls for the repatriation of the remains of Richard Somers and the men of the USS Intrepid from Tripoli.

Sent to fight Barbary pirates, Somers and his 12-man crew perished in the explosion of the Intrepid in Tripoli harbor on September 4, 1804. The men were buried by captured American prisoners from the frigate USS Philadelphia outside the walls of the old castle fort in the Libyan capitol. Remains of five of the men were later uncovered by an Italian road work crew and reburied nearby in marked graves at the Old Protestant Cemetery.

Although numerous efforts to repatriate the remains by the Somers family and citizens of Somers Point have been fruitless over the years, the current turmoil in Libya has called attention to the issue, and there is renewed hope that when the turmoil settles down, the repatriation of the remains of these men will be made a national priority.

Earlier in the week Rogers introduced House Resolution 1497 that was co-sponsored by Lobiondo, which directs the Secretary of Defense "to take whatever steps may be necessary to exhume and transfer the remains of certain deceased members of the Armed Forces buried in Tripoli, Libya, and for other purposes." The discussions centered on the difficult task of generating public support for the resolution and finding more Congressmen to co-sponsor the resolution.

Among those from Somers Point who attended the meeting were Somers Point Mayor Jack Glasser, Historical Society President Sally Hastings, Walter Gregory, chairman of the Committee to Return Richard Somers, committee member Greg Sykora, and Dean Somers, of the Somers family.

Documentary filmmaker Will Kahane and local historian William Kelly and also accompanied the delegation to Washington where they met public relations specialist Michael Caputo, who helped organize the meeting, and Chipp Reid, who recently completed a book about the Barbary Wars.

The resolution was sent to the Military and Veterans Affairs Committees for consideration, and needs additional co-sponsors. The group also met with veterans groups and hopes that their support will lead to a committee hearing and house votes in support of the resolution, as well as sponsors in the Senate.

The delegation also met with senior staff at the headquarters of the American Legion, one of the nation's largest veterans service organizations. The Legion is considering supporting the effort to repatriate Somers and his crew and agreed to meet the delegation to discuss the issue in detail.

"The veterans groups are the ones who are going to take this to another level," said Committee member Greg Sykora.

Both the Congressmen and the Veterans groups noted the importance of the families. "I would like to have my family member come home," said Dean Somers. "It's time."

Somers Point mayor Jack Glasser was encouraged by the direction of the meetings. "It was very encouraging because we now have direction, and there are important people who want to help us," said Glasser, after meeting with Rogers and LoBiondo. "Hopefully it will pick up momentum and more people we join us."

The meetings also infused new optimism among the members of the Committee to Return Richard Somers. "I have been pessimistic because we have been down so many blind alleys the past seven years," said Committee Chair Walt Gregory. "I think we are now finally moving forward."

"The 200 year old story of Richard Somers isn't over yet," said Sally Hastings of the Historical Society. "It continues today, and discouragement has turned to hope."

For further information contact:

Somers Point Mayor Jack Glasser - (609)

SPHS President Sally Hastings (609) 927-8002

Committee to Return Richard Somers Chairman Walt Gregory (609) 513-6219

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