To stand next to the USS America is to be humbled. The ship's size, strength, and technology are evident from bow to stern. Yet to these sailors, the hull is home.
"The USS America, we're gonna make it look very pretty for you guys," one sailor said.
Cannon blasts began a ceremony rich with history and hopes for fair winds, smooth waters, and safety for all onboard.
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Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus spoke with ABC7 News prior to delivering the keynote address.
"This ship will sail for decades, protecting American interests," he said. "It'll carry Marines, it will provide the presence that America has to have."
Then, the moment of awakening.
"Officers and crew of the USS America, man our ship and bring her to life," said USS America sponsor Lynne Pace.
Crewmembers ran to the USS America, up the gangway, and across the decks.
Many could not wait for this moment.
"It's going to look amazing," one person said. "As soon as it comes to life, everyone's going to love it; it's going to be spectacular,"
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Now that the USS America is commissioned the crew is considered plank owners. It means they are the first; laying the foundation for the generations of sailors to come.
"Being a plankowner is a great opportunity to have," one sailor said.
Although President Barack Obama was in town for fundraisers, he did not stop by. Members of the audience did not let his absence detract from their experience.
"I thought it was very impressive," one spectator said.
Another added, "Awesome, just so proud."
Proud to be an American.
For the full schedule of Fleet Week activities, click here.