NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN 65), hosted nearly 1,000 former crew members Nov. 27 to kick off its two-day 50th birthday celebration that will culminate with a party in the ship's hangar bay, Nov. 28.
The celebration, which is the first for a ship serving 50 years in active service, provides an opportunity for crew members past and present to reflect on the importance of the sea power that Enterprise represents.
John D. Clark, a former photographer's mate who served onboard Enterprise from 1963 to 1965, said he was onboard Enterprise for "two Mediterranean tours and a world tour."
Current Enterprise Sailors were available throughout the day to show their predecessors around, but many times it was the veteran Sailors who ended up giving the tours as they recounted their service from a bygone era.
Although widely considered a very rewarding and, possibly, final opportunity for visiting veterans to walk the passageways of one of the most famous ships in history, the experience had an impact on current Sailors as well.
"Everyone has their own experiences and feelings about this ship," said Airman Apprentice Michael C. Kingsolver, who helped provide tours to the veterans. "It really boosts my morale to hear these veterans share their stories with me and get excited about how things used to be."
A common theme expressed by former Sailors is that while the ship has been upgraded throughout the decades to meet the changing nature of warfare, overall it is very much the same.
"To me, it's a little like spending a day with a childhood friend that you haven't seen in many years," said Dale Inman who served as a Machinist's Mate in the early 1970s. "It makes me nostalgic for the good old days. But you know what, I'll bet I could still man my station if the skipper needed me to."
As Enterprise prepares for its final deployment, deactivation and decommissioning, the opportunity for veterans of Enterprise and future veterans of the ship to meet and interact is one that will certainly be valued by all.
For more information about Enterprise and events scheduled for the 50th birthday, visit www.enterprise.navy.mil, and follow us at Twitter: The CVN65 and Facebook: USS Enterprise CVN 65.
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