March 3, 2007 in Nation/World

Aircraft carrier making final voyage

Jesse Harlan Alderman Associated Press
 

BOSTON – Three hundred immigrants from 79 countries took the U.S. oath of citizenship Friday in an aircraft hangar during the USS John F. Kennedy’s final call in the port of Boston, including seven of its crew members.

The event was the highlight of the second day of the warship’s return to the 35th president’s home state for a five-day farewell visit. It goes out of service later this month.

“This is just a great opportunity we had as the ship was decommissioning. Not everybody gets to do it like this,” said Electrician’s Mate Pamela Leach, who came to the United States from Arima on the island of Trinidad and has served 12 years in the Navy.

“We feel special to do this on her last journey and to serve as her last crew.”

Later in March, the ship is scheduled to reach its final port of call in Mayport, Fla., for decommissioning. It will be maintained in Philadelphia.

The “Big John,” with a crew of about 4,600, is more than 1,050 feet long, and can carry 70 combat aircraft.

It was christened in May 1967 by the president’s then-9-year-old daughter, Caroline, and entered Navy service in September 1968.

One of two remaining fossil fuel-powered aircraft carriers in the Navy – the rest are nuclear powered – the ship supported Operation Desert Shield in 1990, and was deployed in February 2002 to the North Arabian Sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Kennedy also traveled to New York harbor after the attacks of Sept. 11.

Many said they were honored their legal ceremony also held historic importance.

“This is like the movies when they say to be American, it’s freedom and justice, and I think this is so cool,” said Elva Chen, a computer programmer originally from Tai Pei, Taiwan.

“When I read the (oath of) allegiance on this ship, I especially think about the part that says to take and bear arms for your country. It’s really special.”

© Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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