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Cold Iron

That is a term we would use when a carrier (or any ship, I suppose) would pull pierside and they would shut down the boilers or turn off the reactors (you can tell Im not nuke material) or whatever - and everyone would go on leave - with the exception of the duty watch team.A bit different with KENNEDY today. The decommissioning for the old girl was held this afternoon, and the pomp and circumstance and ceremony of centuries of Navy tradition was played out under a beautiful blue Florida sky. When the crew left the ship this time, there was no watch team left behind - nothing left but a silent ship.USS JOHN F KENNEDY is indeed cold iron.Cold iron.jpgMAYPORT, Fla. (March 23, 2007) - Sailors take their final walk down the brow of USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) during the historical decommissioning ceremony. 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 (RELEASED)The below article talks about a KENNEDY reunion held the day before. Read the whole thing - it really captures a lot of what these ships mean to the men who served on them:

It Was A Homecoming for JFK AlumniFLORIDA TIMES UNION, 23 MAR 07, By Mark WoodsFrom afar, it might seem like just a ship.A massive ship. A ship that, as the last conventionally powered aircraft carrier built by the Navy, represents a disappearing piece of U.S. military history. A ship that received so many modifications that its basically one of a kind.But its still just a ship, right?Not to the hundreds of people who stepped back onto the USS John F. Kennedy on Thursday - some of them for the first time since they stepped off it decades ago.It was Alumni Day, a chance for former crew members to return to the JFK before todays decommissioning ceremony.They came from all over the country. They showed spouses and children and grandchildren where they used to live and work. They bumped into old buddies and told old stories, some of which they insisted were true.They walked up and down familiar steps, grabbing familiar pieces of metal, holding on a little longer than they once did. And not just because they havent been on the ship in a while.Because they knew this was it. They were saying goodbye to something that, to them, is much more than a ship.
More below the fold--Pinch Paisley, crossposted at the Instapinch

Its my second home, said Mike Friedman, 44, of Toledo, Ohio, recalling his three cruises in three different decades.Coming back is like going back to your hometown, said Laurie Jacobs, 45, of Jacksonville.Its part of my life, that is what it is, said Norman Hults of Windsor, Va.Hults, 64, stood on the flight deck with his wife, Ruth. He explained that he met her while on leave, more than 32 years ago. Returning to the ship brought back memories of that time, of working in the engine rooms, of being a sailor on the JFK.There were good days and bad days, Hults said, adding with a smile, but Ive forgotten all the bad ones.He recently watched as another ship he served on was dismantled and turned into scrap metal. That left the Kennedy as the last ship he has served on thats still around. So when asked about the decommissioning, he said, It brings tears to my eyes.Moments later - and throughout the morning - there was the sound of a clang, clang, followed by an announcement.Plank owner arriving.The plank owners are the ships original crew members, the sailors who were there when the ship was commissioned on Sept. 7, 1968.Robert Lehman was a machinist mate 2nd class working with air-conditioning and refrigeration. He hadnt been back on the ship since 1971. Standing in the bright sunlight on the flight deck, he said: Its weird. I remember coming up here in the middle of the ocean, pitch black and nothing but the moon and stars. I miss the Navy days.Some of the alumni went up to the navigation bridge. Some had their children sit in the captains chair for photos. Frank Galietti, one of the plank owners, grabbed some familiar controls and said with a grin, I feel 40 years younger.To the alumni, the ship is much more than tons of metal. Its sweat and blood. Their sweat and blood.Jack Devlin, a plank owner now living in Boston, talked about the commissioning and how, on that day, they gave Big John its heartbeat.It has a life, said Devlin, who was a radar operator on the ship. It absolutely has a life.If thats the case, then it was a good, long life. And as is the case with all long lives, it included plenty of ups and downs. Repeated cruises to the Middle East, dating back to the 1970s. A massive homecoming celebration in Virginia after Desert Storm. A collision with the USS Belknap in 1975. Periods of disrepair. Periods of repair.Its a tribute to the sailors who served on the Kennedy that it survived this long. Some of them wish it could last longer. Others say its time. Maybe even past time.Its kind of like the aging parent that finally passes, said Jacobs, who was the ships first dental hygienist. Its bittersweet.Its not just that the ship has had a good life. So have the people who served on it.Thats what they kept saying as they walked around the Kennedy one last time.There were times during their cruises when they couldnt wait to get off the ship. Thats what happens when you serve on an aircraft carrier, when youre at sea for months at a time. But this day, they didnt want to leave.They lingered.They sounded homesick.For a ship, they kept saying, is much more than a ship.

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