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Alexandrian Serves Aboard U.S. Navy Warship Named to Honor Legendary Admiral

Seaman Penpet Wongkaw. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy).

By Alvin Plexico, Navy Office of Community Outreach

NORFOLK, VA –Seaman Penpet Wongkaw, an Alexandria, Virginia native and 2013 Mount Vernon High School graduate, is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Arleigh Burke. The ship is a guided-missile destroyer equipped with tomahawk missiles, torpedoes, guns, and phalanx close-in weapons systems. It can operate independently or as part of a larger group at sea.


According to Navy officials, destroyers are capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and anti-surface warfare. Fast, maneuverable, and technically advanced, destroyers provide the required warfighting expertise and operational flexibility to execute any maritime mission.
Seaman Wongkaw is a ship’s serviceman aboard the vessel, which operates out of Norfolk.

A Navy ship’s serviceman is responsible for managing all retail sales that occur while onboard.

Wongkaw credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Alexandria.

“Learning discipline and responsibility has helped me to excel in my job,” said Wongkaw.

The Navy’s Importance

A key element of the Navy that our nation requires is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, according to Navy officials. The nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.

Wongkaw is playing an important part in this country’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances, and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“Our priorities center on people, capabilities, and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results, and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”

A Sailor’s Duty

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard this ship. More than 300 men and women make up its crew, which keeps all parts of the ship running smoothly, from handling weaponry to maintaining the engines.

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Wongkaw is most proud of being the honor graduate from bootcamp and graduating from his first Navy school in the top of his class.

Who Was Arleigh Burke?

Commissioned in 1989 and named after Admiral Arleigh Burke, the destroyer is the lead ship in a class of more than 60 guided-missile destroyers. Perhaps most famously known for his command of Destroyer Squadron 23 – the “Little Beavers” – during World War II, Admiral Burke and his ships fought in dozens of engagements. They were credited with destroying one Japanese cruiser, nine destroyers, one submarine, several smaller ships, and approximately 30 aircraft.

In July 1951, he became a member of the United Nations Truce Delegation to negotiate with the People’s Republic of China and North Korea to establish the military armistice in Korea. In his final Navy assignment, Adm. Burke served an unprecedented three terms as Chief of Naval Operations, the Navy’s highest-ranking officer.

Continuing Tradition

Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Wongkaw, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Wongkaw is honored to carry on the family tradition.

“My father-in-law and brother-in-law currently serve in the Navy,” said Wongkaw, whose grandfather also served in the Thai Royal Navy. “They provide guidance and counseling in my Navy career. I feel a great sense of pride serving in the Navy.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Wongkaw and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, as the Navy will continue to protect our nation and its interests.


“It’s a great privilege to serve my country,” said Wongkaw.

Mary Wadland

Mary Wadland is the Publisher and Editor in Chief of The Zebra Press, founded by her in 2010. Originally from Delray Beach, Florida, Mary is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Hollins College in Roanoke, VA and has lived and worked in the Alexandria publishing community since 1987.

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