Two former Secretaries of the U.S. Navy were having lunch at the Pentagon a few years ago when Ray Mabus said to Paul Ignatius, "Oh, by the way, I'm going to name a ship after you."
"And I said, 'What?'" recalled Ignatius at the commissioning ceremony for the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Paul Ignatius on Saturday.
The 59th Secretary of the Navy (1967-69), under President Lyndon Johnson, was among the thousands in attendance at Port Everglades.
"It was a great surprise and a great honor," said the 98-year-old Ignatius.
Commander Robby Trotter acknowledged the significance of having his ship's namesake take part in the 90-minute ceremony.
"Ninety-eight years is a long time to wait for a ship to be named in your honor," he said. "Thanks for your patience."
While his was the most prominent, Paul Ignatius was not the only name to be inscribed on the destroyer.
Six-month-old Bennett Aaron Wilson was one of six babies to be baptized on the ship on Friday.
"His name is engraved on the [ship's] bell," said proud grandfather William Kingery, of Morehead, N.C.
His daughter, Bennet's mother, is Lt. Amanda Kingery-Wilson, who serves aboard the USS Paul Ignatius.
"It's a big deal for the family," Kingery said.
This is the Navy's 67th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, and it features the latest technology and weapons systems, with the most advanced combat capabilities in the air, on the water and under the sea.
The USS Paul Ignatius is 66 feet wide and 513 feet long with a propulsion system that can exceed speeds of 30 knots. The ship can accommodate more than 300 sailors.
It took four years and 600 people to build it in Pascagoula, Miss., and one of the biggest challenges is keeping up with ever-changing technology.
"If you think about the technology that existed on Day One of those four years, it's different on the last day of the four years," said Donny Dorsey, ship program manager with Huntington Ingalls Industries.
The ceremony means the ship is officially ready for action, although the crew is still going through training. Its homeport will be Mayport, near Jacksonville.
Adm. Craig S. Faller, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said adding this state-of-the-art destroyer to the U.S. arsenal does send a message.
"We send messages mostly by our actions and we act with compassion, we act with hope, we act with respect -- but we can act with force if we need to," he said, after the ceremony, on the deck of the USS Paul Ignatius.
This is only the sixth time Port Everglades has hosted such a ceremony. Previous naval ships to be commissioned at Port Everglades include the USS Leyte Gulf (1987), USS Cole (1996), USS Higgins (1999), USS Bainbridge (2005), and the USS Jason Dunham (2010).
This article was written by Wayne K. Roustan from Sun Sentinel and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.