For Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.), great-nephew of President John F. Kennedy, Saturday held special meaning.
The second-term House member represented the Kennedy family at the keel-laying ceremony for the next USS John F. Kennedy, an aircraft carrier expected to be completed in 2020.
Gathering at a shipyard in Newport News, Va., Joe Kennedy, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) and retired Rear Adm. Earl Yates, who commanded the first John F. Kennedy, watched with others as a giant crane transferred a large beam to the dry dock where the carrier will be built. The beam was a section of the keel, which will help create the structure for the ship’s hull.
Kennedy signed his name to a section of material that will become part of the ship:
He spoke with Yates, calling the moment “truly humbling”:
Admiral Earl Yates stood on the bridge of the first USS John F. Kennedy when she set sail into the Atlantic nearly half a century ago. It was truly humbling to share the stage with him at the keel laying of the next USS John F. Kennedy and to talk with other men and women who served aboard Big John. #JFKCVN79
Kennedy also watched as the initials of his cousin and the ship’s sponsor, Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, were welded onto a ceremonial plate:
Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, was not present at the ceremony but sent a video message conveying her gratitude.
“Every ship has a personality,” she said in the message, according to the Navy Times. “I like to hope that this next ship called ‘John F. Kennedy’ will take on some of the personality of the person for whom it is named. … I hope that all those who sail on this ship will sail with the same sense of service to the nation that my father felt.”
Construction on the ship began in 2011, shipyard officials told reporters. It is expected to cost $13 billion before its projected delivery in 2022.
Shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls posted several photos from the ceremony, including the lifting of the keel:
Yesterday at this time, this was happening at Newport News Shipbuilding – the unit for engine room No. 2 for aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) was being lifted into dry dock to complete the #JFKCVN79 keel laying ceremony. Replay the full webcast: www.thefordclass.com/events — [Photo by Chris Oxley] — #JFK #USNavy #Kennedy #CVN79 #newportnews #hrva #hamptonroads
In this shot, a welder places a weld bead over the initials of Caroline Kennedy:
Of the 4 MILLION POUNDS of weld metal spent on a Ford class carrier, this is some of the most precious. LIKE if you're proud of the shipbuilders who make sure every weld is finished with the same pride and integrity as this one. — [Photo by John Whalen] — #JFKCVN79 #CVN79 #Kennedy #AmericanShipbuilders #newportnews #hrva #hamptonroads #USNavy #757collective
The ship will join a new carrier class named for President Gerald R. Ford.
“It’s an extraordinary honor, as a Kennedy, for my entire family,” Joe Kennedy said Saturday, according to the Daily Press. “Driving in this morning, it’s hard to put into words, when you see a ship like the Gerald Ford, the magnificence of it.”