By lex, on March 26th, 2007
If ever there was a ship that was ready for decommissioning, it was the “Big John” – a great warship that had been rode hard for maybe a bit longer than she ought to have been in a more nearly perfect world. With 18 deployments in her 30 years I think the country got their money’s worth, although it’s worth pointing out that Kitty Hawk – still operating on the tip of the spear – is entering her 46th year of service.
JFK made her farewell trip to Boston and back safely (to the quiet release of a thousand held breaths) and was stricken from the lists on Friday. *
And then there were eleven.
The CO had nice words for his crew, and then addressed the crowd, asking former commanding officers of the ship in the audience to stand up and be recognized. It’d have been a mean but instructional trick to have then asked of them, “And anyone who actually completed his command tour please remain standing.”
Ready or not, it’s always something of a bittersweet affair to close a ship’s log book for the last time. Although it is in itself a mere mechanical thing, a ship takes on a part of the lives of those who worked aboard her, who sailed her around the world, who fought the ship in time of war. People lived aboard that ship, made it a home, some of them died there. If you listen closely you can almost hear the footsteps echoing in the passageways, the voices in the messdecks, the bang and clatter of the catapults and arresting gear engines. Almost.
Ships leave their mark on us, and perhaps it is a mere romantic notion, but I believe that we imprint something on them as well.
* 07-28-2018 Link Gone; no replacements found – Ed.