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Navy dedicates ship to Harvey Milk on Treasure Island

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Sean Penn already in talks to play ship

Judging from what friends and colleagues say about him, if you;d told LGBT activist and San Francisco politician Harvey Milk that he would still make headlines nearly 40 years after his (unfortunate) death, he would probably never have gone a day without bringing it up.

And would Milk have been pleased with himself on Tuesday, as he got the full red carpet treatment from the US Navy at a Treasure Island ceremony full of big-cheese names like former Speaker of the House (and sitting congresswoman) Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. They were there to honor Milk by putting his name on the side of a 677 foot support ship.

The Navy announced the USNS Harvey Milk earlier this summer, but this was the ship’s official unveiling, at least in concept. The real deal is presently under construction in San Diego and will set sail in two year’s time, if all goes according to schedule.

The Treasure Island setting merged two critical elements of Milk’s time as a public servant: San Francisco, where he became one of the first (and at the time most prominent) openly gay politicians elected to office in U.S. history; and the Navy itself, where he served in the Korean War as a diver on a submarine, eventually being promoted to lieutenant, junior grade.

The ship, the first to be named for an openly gay activist, is what’s known as a replenishment craft, ferrying supplies to aircraft carriers at sea. Whether this is an intentional homage to Milk’s activist career or just a happy coincidence isn’t clear.

The technical name for such a vessel is an "underway replenishment oiler," and while that phrase surely lends itself to a double entendre Milk probably would have appreciated, we’ll pass on it.

Also on hand at the Tuesday ceremony was Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk, who commented that during all of Milk’s wartime service his one great fear was being outed.