NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WVEC) -- After 55 years of naval service, the USS Enterprise has been officially decommissioned.
During Friday's ceremony at Newport News Shipbuilding, the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) was described as a "legendary" vessel that helped shape history. It served more than 50 years, playing a role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the Navy's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
Navy officials say the Enterprise also helped pioneer modern-day carrier operations by launching the first nose-wheel launch bar designed catapult system, recovering Astronaut John Glenn when he returned to Earth after making America's first orbital space flight and launching the first strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban targets following the attack on America on Sept. 11, 2001.
Affectionately called the "Big E," the ship retired from service in 2012. The Navy has spent the past few years defueling its reactors. The ship will eventually be taken apart and its metal recycled.
CVN 65 is the eighth ship to bear the name Enterprise and, during its time of service, thousands of sailors have served as part of its crew.
One of the Enterprise's original sailors was 77-year-old Ray Godfrey of Bigfork, Montana. He said the ceremony was emotional for him realizing that "she's done."
But he said, "We started something really good."
CVN 65 will not be the last vessel to bear the Enterprise name. Work is starting to gear up on the construction of a new Enterprise, which will be a Gerald R. Ford class aircraft carrier.
The Associated Press contributed to this report