Make Virginia proud

Published 9:29 am Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The sign above the hangar bay was extra large, reflecting the extra-large space it had to hold on the extra-large ship that was being celebrated on Saturday at Naval Station Norfolk. “Made in America,” it read.

Made in Virginia is more like it. As the U.S. Navy commissioned its newest and most advanced aircraft carrier, it was impossible to miss the importance of the Old Dominion to the nation’s military infrastructure.

With the only shipyard in the nation capable of building these behemoths of sea power, Virginia — and Hampton Roads, specifically — is the mother of the nation’s carrier fleet, and many people in Western Tidewater have had a hand in building the aircraft carriers that serve as the cornerstone of the navy’s ability to project power into every sea around the globe.

The commissioning ceremony on Saturday was fittingly grand. President Trump was there, along with Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and the latter made sure to remind everyone how vital Virginia is to the nation’s defense. With Trump having stated that he wants a bigger navy and a stronger military, generally, our governor may well get his wish for more military spending in Hampton Roads and around the commonwealth.

But Saturday was a celebration of the USS Gerald R. Ford and the late president who was its namesake. As hundreds of sailors ran up the brows to bring the ship to life, manning the rails and standing at attention in the 100-degree heat, Susan Ford Bales, the late president’s daughter and sponsor of the new ship, proudly watched the traditional ceremony unfold.

Her father, she said, was both proud and humbled when he learned shortly before his death of the plans to name a carrier — indeed, a whole new class of carriers — after him.

In America, we make big things. And there’s nothing with a bigger presence than a carrier loaded with aircraft and sailors.

Welcome to the fleet, USS Ford. Make Virginia proud.