The Navy's newest destroyer, the USS William P. Lawrence, has arrived at its homeport of San Diego.
Im so excited, it has been a long time in coming, said Ivory Parker, the wife of Jeremy Parker a sailor on the USS Lawrence.
The guided-missile destroyer, which carries Tomahawk missiles, anti-submarine torpedoes, surface-to-air missiles, a five-inch gun and two SH-60 helicopters, sailed into San Diego Bay Friday, according to Naval Surface Forces Third Fleet public affairs office.
The sailors who have the privilege of being the first to serve on a new ship are called plank owners, from the days of wooden ships when they first sailed. We all received plaques that we will carry with us forever and special ball caps for different uniforms that say plank owner on them, said Joshua Bushman, a sailor on the USS Lawrence.
The Lawrence was built in Pascagoula, Miss., and commissioned during a ceremony at the Alabama State Docks in Mobile, Ala., June 4. It then sailed through the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and Panama Canal into the Pacific Ocean en route to San Diego, Naval officials said.
With a crew of 280, the 9,200-ton warship is named for the late Vice Adm. William P. Lawrence, the first naval aviator to fly twice the speed of sound. Lawrence, a naval aviator who was shot down during the Vietnam War and a prisoner of war, also served as class president of the Naval Academy in 1951. Lawrence died in 2005 at the age of 75, but seven of his classmates came to Naval Base San Diego to welcome the ship.
He was the top drawer in every thing he did and to have a ship named after him, it was just meant to be, said Captain Herb Zoehrer, USN (retired)
As commanding officer of Fighter Squadron 143, Lawrence was awarded the Silver Star for a strike against a heavily defended target in North Vietnam. He completed his mission but was captured after his aircraft went down in June 1967 and remained a prisoner of war until March 1973. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his leadership of fellow POWs.
Lawrence, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, served as Academy superintendent 1978-1981.
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