Thousands gather at commissioning of USS Gerald R. Ford

Posted at 10:43 PM, Jul 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-23 09:56:42-04

NORFOLK, Va. -- On Saturday, the USS Gerald R. Ford became the newest addition to the Naval fleet.

The stunning, top of the line aircraft carrier is unlike any warship ever built.

It's being called the most advanced vessel in the world, but there's so  much more to it. Glimpses of Michigan's rich history appear throughout the ship, including tributes to the 38th President, Gerald R. Ford, a West Michigan native.

Family, friends and high profile guests -- including many from Michigan -- traveled to Naval Station Norfolk to see the vessel become an official part of the U.S. Navy.

"What an honor for all of us to be here to honor him and to really celebrate West Michigan’s much loved son,” said Bill Huizenga (R), from Michigan.

Michigan's Attorney General, Bill Schutte, also made the trip to Virginia.

"This overwhelming sense of pride from Grand Rapids and West Michigan and the entire state of Michigan - that our guy, Gerald R. Ford, "said Schutte. "Michigan’s President is now this ship. part of our security and a fortress for the future.”

President Donald Trump presided over the ceremonies and spoke fervently about Ford, and the men and women who built and will man the ship out at sea.

"American steel and American hands have constructed a 100,000 ton message to the world," said Trump. "American might is second to none.”

Sailors from Michigan got to see the hard work and sea trials come into reality.

Petty Officer 1st Class Gordon Grove, of Michigan, will serve aboard the USS Ford and pointed out Michigan ties that will forever grace the vessel.

“You walk around... there’s so much Michigan in this ship, "said Grove. "We’ve got Michigan Avenue area over here, memorials for [Ford]…it's great. I feel like I’m home here. Like I can relate.”

President Ford's daughter, Susan Ford Bales, quoted a letter her father wrote late in his life upon finding out the Navy planned to name the ship after him.

“And he concluded his letter… quote… 'Thus is a source of indescribable pride and humility to know that an aircraft carrier bearing my name will be permanently associated with the valor and integrity of the men and women of the United States Navy.'"

Thousands of ship builders and their families saw the fruits of their labor become a reality. It took 12 years of waiting and working, all culminating with Saturday's ceremonies.

“For everyone around the world who would want to take on the United States or the US Navy, we want them to look out on the horizon and see the Gerald R. Ford and her embarked airing and say… not today,” said Adm. John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations.

Even though the USS Gerald R. Ford  has been commissioned, it's not quite done with trials yet and will continue to wait for orders of deployment.