By Mass Communication Specialist
1st Class Bill Larned, USS John F. Kennedy Public Affairs
Distinguished visitors and guests attend the historical decommissioning ceremony of the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67). Kennedy served its country with more than 38 years of service and 18 official deployments. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Susan Cornell
The aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) was decommissioned in Mayport, Fla., March 23.
After a 17 gun salute, USS John F. Kennedy Commanding Officer Capt. Todd Zecchin addressed the more than 5,000 guests, former commanding officers, city officials and distinguished visitors. In his speech, he described his feelings for the ship and the legacy of its crew.
“While preparing for today, I realized that serving on this ship is akin to having a relationship with a tried and true friend," Zecchin said. "Saying goodbye is a sublime melancholy.”
Zecchin described the level of dedication the crew revealed. He illustrated their pride in professionalism in terms of a recent port visit
to Boston, when 21 degree below zero windchills made working conditions at night unforgiving.
“None of the watchstanders complained. In fact, I had to order them back inside the skin of the ship because they were so intent on getting the job done.”
The ship’s commanding officer took time not just to remember the crew’s efforts, but of those backing each of them.
“Nobility of purpose, service to people, devotion to a cause and a deep belief in each other is what sustains us. We could not have done it without the support of family and friends," he said.
Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command Admiral John B. Nathman talked about the ship’s history and the deployments to the Middle East that made headlines in the 1980s, 1990s and the present decade.
“You have served with honor and distinction,” Nathman said, addressing the crew. “I commend you for facing challenges head-on and for welcoming your responsibility. Feel privileged to bear your responsibility. Wear it as a mantle on your shoulders with the pride it deserves.”
To recognize some of the former commanding officers of USS John F. Kennedy, Zecchin asked all who had once commanded the warship to stand. A hearty applause erupted from all of the seated guests, young and old, military personnel and civilians.
The 80,000 ton warship, namesake of the 35th President of the United States, saw 18 deployments and 30 commanding officers in its 38 years of service.