UPDATE: Sheetz, Wawa Team Up for Navy Tradition (Slideshow)

Retailers provide food to U.S.S. Somerset commissioning ceremony attendees

USS Somerset

PHILADELPHIA --Finding a fitting role in a time-honored tradition, Pennsylvania rivals Wawa Inc. and Sheetz Inc., two of country's best-known convenience store retailers, teamed up earlier this month to provide more than 5,000 lunches to attendees at the commissioning ceremony of the U.S.S. Somerset (LPD25)in Philadelphia on March 1.

Like her sister ships, the U.S.S. New York and U.S.S. Arlington, the U.S.S. Somerset is named in commemoration of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The name honors the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 whose actions prevented hijackers from reaching their intended target, forcing the airplane to crash near Shanksville, in Somerset County, Pa.

Over the weeks following the Flight 93 crash, recovery personnel retrieved more than 95% of the airplane's wreckage from the crash site. They hoisted an American flag on the top of a power shovel or "dragline" on a hill dominating the area. The dragline, used in coal stripping at one time, with the flag, became a symbol of the effort.

In the summer of 2008, shipbuilders melted down the dragline's 22-ton steel bucket and cast it into the U.S.S. Somerset's bow stem, embodying the strength and determination of the people of the United States to recover, to rally and to take the fight to the enemy.

For details on the ship and company, click here.

For more photos of the U.S.S. Somerset, click here.

"This is an enormous enterprise that would not be possible without the support of such experienced companies in food preparation and service," said Thomas Metzger, president of the Philadelphia Council of the Navy League, which is the sponsor of the ceremony. "Funding for the ceremony is dependent on private donations and good corporate citizens like Wawa and Sheetz."

The guests included nearly 2,000 members of the Somerset County community, 500 members of the ship's family, 500 family members of those who were on flight 93, as well local officials and leadership from Wawa and Sheetz.

Among the guests were Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Jonathan Greenert and U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, delivered the principal address. Somerset's ship sponsor Mrs. Mary Jo Myers, the wife of former Joint Chiefs of Staff retired Air Force General Richard Myers, gave the time-honored command to "man our ship and bring her to life!" Sailors and Marines then ran on board the ship and manned the rails, making it official.

The ship remained moored at Penns Landing before departing on its journey to its home port in San Diego.

The free box lunches featured popular items from each company's menu.

"When the Navy League contacted both Wawa and Sheetz about working together to provide the lunches for the commissioning ceremony, both companies were proud, as Pennsylvania-based hometown companies, to work together in support of this historic event. This was truly a state-wide collaboration on the part of the Navy League to honor those who serve and those who sacrificed. We were both proud and humbled to participate," Wawa spokesperson Lori Bruce told CSP Daily News.

"We at Sheetz are truly grateful to come together with Wawa in support of the U.S.S. Somerset commissioning ceremony. The entire Sheetz family is humbled by this extraordinary opportunity to honor the families of Flight 93 and recognize those who dedicate their lives to serving this great nation," said Joe Sheetz, president and CEO of Sheetz in announcing the company's participation.

"On this solemn and extremely meaningful occasion, all of us at Wawa feel privileged to be a part of this ceremony, honoring those who serve our great nation and those who sacrificed during this tragic moment in our history," said Chris Gheysens, president and CEO of Wawa, in announcing the company's participation. "As a proud Pennsylvania-based company, we are honored to join together with Sheetz and pay tribute to these brave men and women of Flight 93. They will never be forgotten."

Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz operates 466 locations throughout Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio and West Virginia.

Wawa Inc., with headquarters in Wawa, Pa., operates more than 600 convenience stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida.

Part of CSP's 2014 Convenience Top 101 retailers