USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea - The crew of USS George Washington (CVN 73), the Navy's only full-time, forward-deployed aircraft carrier, gathered on the ship's flight deck for a patriotic Fourth of July ceremony and picnic.
"Today, as we reflect and celebrate 235 years of our rich history, it is you and the Sailors that came before you that have set this legacy, put theory into practice and made America what it is today," said Capt. David Lausman, George Washington's commanding officer. "I am proud to be your shipmate."
The ceremony included the singing of the National Anthem and the reading of the Declaration of Independence. July 4 also marked the birthday of the aircraft carrier's commissioning, which was June 4, 1992.
"Shipmates, the USS George Washington is a fine aircraft carrier, and I'm proud to serve aboard her in her 19th year of commission, said Commander, Task Force (CTF) 70, Rear Adm. J. R. Haley. "But I'm even more proud to serve each and every day with you, the Sailors aboard George Washington, who truly reflect the spirit of freedom. You come from different cultures and states, races and religions. You are the spirit of freedom that we celebrate today. You guys are George Washington!"
A massive cake in the shape of the carrier was then cut and served to the crew. Cutting the cake were George Washington's youngest and oldest Sailors and four plankowners who served aboard the ship when it was commissioned in 1992.
"This is the first ship I served on after I enlisted so to be a part of today's celebration is huge," said Jerry Bartee, ordnance handling officer. "When I look back on the 26 years I've been in the Navy, this is definitely one of the highlights."
Following the ceremony, the 5,500 Sailors aboard George Washington were treated to a variety of events coordinated by Morale, Welfare and Recreation. These events included tug-of-war, a three-point basketball tournament, a doughnut eating contest, damage control olympics and the playing of the film "Independence Day" on a massive screen on the ship's flight deck.
"A lot of us don't get to come up to the flight deck that often, said Engineman 3rd Class Helena Tan from San Francisco. "So it's pretty cool that we get to put on our civilian clothes and enjoy great weather and good food on the Fourth of July. It's just nice to relax and have some time to be ourselves."
"I'm an AO (aviation ordnanceman) so I'm up on flight deck all day loading planes with ordnance," said Aviation Ordnanceman Seaman Tiffany Bessler. "Today it was really nice to be able to be up here and just relax and enjoy the party."
George Washington's mission is to ensure security and stability across the western Pacific Ocean and work with regional partners to respond to any crisis across the operational spectrum as directed.