Saratoga Vets

VENERABLE WARSHIPOver 100 veterans said their goodbyes to the USS Saratoga, a Forrestal-class carrier that protected the United States for nearly 50 years and saw action in Vietnam and in Operation Desert Storm. The ship's sailors were given a last look on Friday.

"I wanted to see her before she goes to that big ocean in the sky," 76-year-old Richard Crudele told Stars and Stripes. "But I don't like it one bit. She deserves to be a museum."

The Saratoga was decommissioned in 1994, while efforts to turn her into a museum ship persevered until 2010, when she was removed from the donation list.

According to S&S, some of the Saratoga's plankowners were on hand to toss a wreath into the water, while another vet played Taps.

The ship, which was commissioned in 1956, had fallen into a state of disrepair over the years, making the goodbyes especially difficult for the men that served on her.

"To the average person this looks like an empty piece of steel," he said. "But for us, we can envision the sounds and smells, what it was like when we were on board. It's sad to see her falling apart."

The Saratoga is slated to be towed from the dock at Naval Station Newport to Texas, where she'll be broken up. The director of the museum project for the USS John F. Kennedy, which was the vessel responsible for booting the Saratoga off the museum donation list, has committed to a memorial for the ship when the Kennedy is converted for its museum duties.