Posted: Saturday, March 1, 2014 11:07 pm
Melissa Montoya | The Brownsville Herald
BROWNSVILLE — Up until Feb. 24, Gib Pulcher didn’t know of the USS Forrestal’s final destination in Brownsville, where the supercarrier is scheduled to be dismantled for scrap.
But the moment he heard on Monday, the 72-year-old knew he had to take one last look at the vessel he called his home for two-and-a-half years so long ago.
To do that, Pulcher and his wife Ruth drove for three days and 1,500 miles from central Florida to arrive in Brownsville and have a look at the retired aircraft carrier.
“I always wanted to see it,” Ruth Pulcher, 78, said. “He was on it for 30 months.”
Gib Pulcher said he wanted to see it again “before they put it down.”
“I have feelings, but I guess it’s time,” he said.
Pulcher was not the only one to say goodbye to the ship during a public ceremony Saturday at the Port of Brownsville. By 11 a.m., almost 700 people had lined up to have one last glance at the ship.
The 1,063-foot-long vessel was a top-of-the-line “supercarrier” when it was commissioned in 1955.
“It really hurts to see her like this,” said Cecio Moore, who served on the carrier for five years.
Moore was on the ship on July 29, 1967, when 134 servicemembers were killed during a fire that started when a rocket misfired and impacted a Skyhawk, he said. He was wounded by shrapnel.
The experience of serving on the Forrestal was “kind of rough,” Moore said but added that has good memories and bad memories. He needed to say goodbye because “she’s a lady.”
More than 20 veterans crowded together to pose for a picture in front of the vessel. Some embraced each other, and others laughed and spoke about their memories on the ship.
Jimmy Hassell, from Franklin, Tenn., said it was important to say goodbye to the Forrestal.
“It was our home,” Hassell, 67, said. “It was my safe haven.”
Hassell said it’s a shame the aircraft carrier is being dismantled.
“Fire and bombs couldn’t destroy it, but bureaucrats can,” Hassell said.
Nikhil H. Shah, president of All Star Metals, which was awarded the Navy contract to dismantle the ship, said allowing people to visit and look at the vessel was his way of thanking the veterans who had served on the Forrestal.
As Shah prepared to welcome the Forrestal, he started to hear stories from veterans who served on it.
“They gave me insight,” Shah said. “This is what I do when I walk through that space, I think of that person.”
The dismantling will begin Monday, Shah said. The first step in the process is to clean the ship.