BOSTON - USS Constitution and her crew got underway from the ship's berth in Charlestown, Massachusetts, Sept. 21 to honor Gold Star Families and State Educators.

In coordination with Naval History and Heritage Command and USS Constitution Museum, the crew of USS Constitution hosted Gold Star Families and State Educators as a thank you for their tremendous support of the U.S. Armed Services, Veterans and the Nation.

Slipping her berth at 10:00 a.m. with 344 guests, Constitution navigated down the Charles River Basin out to Boston’s Inner Harbor.

"I think it’s a real honor that USS Constitution dedicated an entire underway to our organization," said Karen Lounsbury, President of the Boston Chapter of American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. "I think it’s an honor and a privilege to work with the Navy and know that our children are not forgotten. Our biggest disappointment with being Gold Star Mothers is figuring out that life goes on without our children and then people forget their sacrifices. To have the Navy open up Constitution and dedicate the day is an honor and a privilege because it lets us know that the Navy hasn’t forgotten."

Constitution fired a 21-gun salute which was returned by the 101st Field Artillery Unit of the Massachusetts National Guard near Fort Independence on Castle Island. Fort Independence is a Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation site that served as a defensive position for Boston Harbor from 1634 to 1962.

"This has been an unbelievable experience," said Garcia Dalzon, a 9th grade history teacher at East Boston High School. "To be aboard Constitution, a vessel that was created to protect us as a nation, I think was important. Being able to see where the Sailors stayed during the War of 1812 and how the ship is actually run was exciting. What I teach my students about USS Constitution is in a book. They might see something like it in a movie, but to actually have an opportunity to be on Constitution and actually experience the ship was absolutely amazing. I want to bring my class to the ship so they can experience the real thing."

The ship also fired an additional 17 rounds as she passed the U.S. Coast Guard Station, the former site of Edmund Hartt’s shipyard where Constitution was built. Each round of this salute honored the 16 states that comprised the U.S. when Constitution launched in 1797 and one in honor of the shipyard itself.

The ship returned to her berthing, Pier 1 of the Charlestown Navy Yard, at 1:30 p.m.

Starting in World War I, the families of U.S. Soldiers and Sailors often flew flags that had a blue star for each member of the family that was serving in the military. If one of them died in battle, the blue star was changed to a gold star. In Aug. 1947, Congress authorized the military to present a gold star lapel pin to the family members of those killed in action. That first pin was a simple gold star on a purple background with a laurel wreath around the star. Another pin—this time a gold star with a gold background and four oak sprigs around the star—was authorized by Congress in 1973. It was awarded to the next of kin of service members who die during military service.

Constitution, America’s Ship of State, actively defended sea lanes against global threats from 1797-1855. The World’s Oldest Commissioned Warship Afloat, Constitution embodies 220 years of maritime heritage and unwavering service to her country. Now a featured destination on Boston’s Freedom Trail, Constitution and her crew of active duty U.S. Navy Sailors offer community outreach and education about the ship's history and the importance of naval sea power to more than 500,000 visitors each year. Constitution is berthed at Pier One in Charlestown Navy Yard.