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US commissions last Nimitz-class aircraft carrier

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President George W Bush addresses the audience at the commissioning ceremony for the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, Jan 10, 2009. US department of defence image

WASHINGTON (BNS): The last Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, USS George H W Bush, was commissioned in Norfolk, Virginia, on Saturday with traditional pomp. Among those present on the occasion was President George W Bush who jokingly said that what do you give a guy who has been blessed with everything. “Well an aircraft carrier,” he said.

“The ship is a fitting tribute to a generation of men with whom my dad was privileged to serve. She’s also a tribute to a new generation of American soldiers and sailors and Coast Guardsmen and women, airmen and Marines who have stepped forward to defend the United States of America,” President Bush said.

Defence Secretary Robert M Gates also declared USS George H W Bush a fitting tribute to the man who served his country for more than 40 years in several capacities.

“There is no one more worthy of having the last Nimitz-class aircraft carrier named in his honour than our 41st president, the last of the World War II generation to serve as commander-in-chief. As commander-in-chief, President George H.W. Bush had a courage and toughness that impressed all those who worked for him,” Gates said.

“At the same time, he was, and is, a man of feeling, especially where men and women in uniform are concerned,” the secretary added.

Recalling former President Bush’s tribute to the 47 sailors who died when a 16-inch gun turret exploded aboard USS Iowa on April 19, 1989, Gates said that the press had accused Bush of just “going through the motions,” because he appeared to speed through his remarks. In fact, Bush was so moved by the sailors’ sacrifice that he would not have made it through his remarks had he not sped through them, Gates said.

Gates said that former President Bush had once said that a peaceful, prosperous international order required ‘the leadership, the power, and yes, the conscience of the United States of America. “This ship that bears his name, this ship that we commission today, embodies all three,” he added.

For the former President Bush, the commissioning brought back fond memories made more than six decades ago when, as a young sailor, he participated in the commissioning of USS San Jacinto.

Speaking on the occasion, the former President said, “Those who are sitting out there where I was 65 years ago, preparing to serve aboard your new ship, I wish I was sitting right out there with you, ready to start the adventures of my naval aviation career all over.”

“As you prepare to man this ship, I do know that you take with you the hopes and dreams of every American who cherishes freedom and peace. And you take with you the undying respect and admiration of the entire Bush family,” he said.

The nuclear-powered USS George HW Bush is nearly twice as long as the first ship on which its namesake served. It’s nearly as tall as the Empire State Building in New York City, and will be home to about 6,000 sailors and Marines.

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