ST. PETERSBURG – To much fanfare, the USS Independence is in St. Petersburg this Labor Day weekend. Its arrival is as much a display of patriotism as it is a highly visible symbol of America's might.
Hundreds of people will get the chance to tour the modern Naval warship, which is spending the long weekend in St. Petersburg, before it travels to home to San Diego.
The USS Independence is getting rock star treatment in St. Petersburg, with U.S. Congressman Bill Young and Mayor Bill Foster touring the 418-foot ship Friday. The two could barely contain their glee.
The USS Independence is believed to be the first Naval warship to dock in St. Petersburg. The St. Petersburg harbor is shallow, and this uniquely built warship can handle it.
The sleek trimaran is a combination anti-submarine, anti-mine, missile defense system, as well as a air and surface attack vessel that can travel up to 40 knots.
The ship is often used in anti-piracy missions, and is returning to the U.S. from a mission in the Persian Gulf.
"I am impressed with the ship, I am impressed with the crew, I am impressed with the Navy," said U.S. Rep. Young, who is largely responsible for the ship's stopover in the Sunshine City.
"I am happy that the Chief of Naval Operations agreed to our request. I think everybody is excited," he said.
Foster also showed enthusiasm for the warship. The adjectives poured from Foster, as he tried to describe the sense of awe that showed clearly on his face.
"It's a lot bigger than it looked when it was coming in, it's an awesome ship," Foster said. "This is a very impressive ship."
In a ceremony following the ship's docking Friday, the 40-member USS Independence crew was lauded by both Young and Foster. Students from Admiral Farragut Academy saluted the sailors, and a local beauty queen smiled and waved.
"You are defending the best country in the world," Young said. "We know our military is voluntary. No one told you to serve."
"This is a beautiful, odd-shaped ship," Foster joked about the trimaran. "Welcome to my city, our city. Our city is yours."