An Oklahoma City native and 2007 Millwood High School graduate celebrated America's 240th year of independence as part of a hand-picked Navy crew serving on the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat, the USS Constitution.Seaman Dashena Allen, a logistics specialist, serves aboard the 219-year-old Boston-based ship named by George Washington to honor the U.S. Constitution. Famously known as “Old Ironsides,” the Constitution is a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate that launched in 1797. Allen said she is honored to serve on the ship that is rich in history and successfully held off the British Navy in the War of 1812. “Getting to meet people from all across the world is my favorite part about serving on the Constitution,” said Allen. “I enjoy being a positive representation of the military to the public.” A key element of the Navy's mission is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, according to Navy officials, and that the nation's prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world's oceans. More than 70 percent of the 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. Just as the U.S. Navy's 274 ships and submarines do today, the Constitution actively defended sea lanes against global threats from 1797 to 1855. The Constitution's victories at sea during the War of 1812 inspired a nation and helped mark the emergence of the United States as a world-class maritime power. Telling stories Now a featured destination on Boston's Freedom Trail, the Constitution and crew offer community outreach and education about the ship's history and the importance of maintaining a strong Navy. “Being involved with the community helps me be more aware of people,” Allen said. “We represent the United States, and we are here to serve a purpose. It makes me more aware of how important our job is.” Eighty-five sailors make up the crew aboard the Constitution. The sailors routinely interact with the public, talking about their jobs, their previous duty stations, Navy rules and regulations and life aboard a Navy vessel. “The sailors aboard this ship are the best in the fleet,” said Cmdr. Robert S. Gerosa Jr., the commanding officer of USS Constitution. “Every time we get to interact with the public, I know the story of our great ship, as well as the Navy's story, is going to be told with enthusiasm and accuracy.” The Constitution is currently in dry dock for its first major restoration in more than 20 years. The restoration is expected to last more than two years, during which time the ship will remain open to the public. Ships must come out of the water from time to time for maintenance and repair. The integrity of a ship's hull is critical to its survival and that of its crew. Ships are removed from the water for inspection, replacement of aging pieces and refinishing of the bottom, below the waterline, so they can continue to serve for years to come. While the ship is undergoing improvements, many sailors use the opportunity to improve upon their personal and professional goals. Kayla Good is with U.S. Navy public affairs.