On August 21, the night before the keel laying of USS John F Kennedy CVN-79, former CV-67 CO and retired Vice Admiral Jerry O. Tuttle made the following remarks to a gathering of CV-67 veterans. We want to share them with you all.
Welcome: Good evening to this awe-inspiring phalanx of our great country –custodians of peace –America’s great leaders, cherished shipmates, distinguished guests, Patriots, All.
I have tremendous admiration and immeasurable pride to be a part of this glorious reunion as we celebrate naval aviation and forge our future as we break the limits of tradition. Thank you for your sublime performance and presence, as you proceed to create a life that you cannot wait to live. You, who plant trees under whose shade you will never sit, and be mindful that starving people do not plant orchards. You have guided and mentored a fantastic array of our future superb Navy heroes.
I possess neither the eloquence of diction, the poetry of imagination, nor the brilliance of metaphor to capture the significance of this momentous reunion, which is rich in substance and quality. Personally, it is akin to winning the lottery with ecstatic and contagious enthusiasm.
As I grow older, I become more grateful for my life, shipmates, Navy family and the opportunity to help others. With absolute humility, I proudly invite your attention that over half of the former CV-67 skippers had brilliantly served me on previous assignments before they became a Commanding Officer of this magnificent JFK vessel.
There are many current activities surrounding the JFK. Frank Lennon has done an ineffable job of saving the JFK for many future generations to visit, learn, and make money in the process.
I salute Bob Haner for his outstanding contributions in the process of saving this vessel and for his overly kind invitation to make a few remarks this evening. I savor the aura of this event and am profoundly honored, deeply moved and humbled. A connoisseur is a discerning judge of the “Best”. I place in evidence JFK.
John F. Kennedy opined that “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
We have rendezvoused to share warmth, wit and wisdom, bask in the splendid ambiance, replenish our psychological air, and have a great time. This reunion for me is both a glorious journey down memory lane and one into an exciting future.
Youth is a blessing of God, maturity is a work of art. One advantage of becoming a “casket candidate” is that you can remember with great clarity events which never occurred. I have reached that juncture in life when they permit me to hide my own Easter eggs as I won’t remember where I hid them, and I not dare buy green bananas. This majestic reunion makes me feel as if I have overdosed on youth pills.
I was among one of the elite skippers fortunate enough to be at the helm of the first CV-67 aircraft carrier.
Words are woefully inadequate to describe the awesome power of our carriers, especially JFK, and I am bound by limits imposed by mere superlatives. I am Thesaurus and intellect- limited to describe the sensation, the pride, and the honor in commanding this awesome weapon system and leading a fabulous crew. When a crisis arises, it is never a wonder why the first question asked is “Where are the carriers?” Our JFK was just plain AMAZING!
There are many who have benefited from the leadership of the first Commanding Officer of Big John. Admiral Buddy Yates, our doyen, is the pinnacle of my Pantheon of American Hero’s. He holds the gold for standards, leadership, wisdom, knowledge, courage, and has stainless conscience and integrity. We have benefited greatly from his talent, his leadership, and his brilliance. Every subsequent Commanding Officer has benefitted from his sagacious talents. He instilled a magnificent ethos, ambiance and culture. All subsequent Commanding Officers have benefited from his vision and enjoyed the continuous pursuit of perfection.
Leadership is typically more profound in its absence than in its presence, but nothing could be further from the truth aboard JFK, because over the years we were brilliantly led and educated by our first Commander Admiral Buddy Yates. Fashions change, styles endure, class lasts forever; Admiral Yates can aver immortality.
Allow me a moment to travel down memory lane. Words are woefully inadequate for me to describe my love affair with this glorious carrier, JFK. It was AWESOME!! How I was assigned to become the Commanding Officer is a remarkable and fortuitous story . . .
Originally, I was slated to command a different carrier but the Commanding Officer of that particular vessel had requested and was approved an extension to remain. In turn, I immediately requested and was granted orders to the JFK as its CO and enjoyed an immeasurable 18-month epic tour.
Every individual who came aboard was a Very Important Person (VIP) and was treated as such. All were given the freedom to be creative and the guidance to be productive.
After Kennedy, I determined that 70-percent of Navy Captains were in located DC and I was not qualified for any of the positions. I crafted a letter to then, Admiral Hayward, the Chief of Naval Operations (or “CNO”) and requested that I work directly for him on his major priorities. He told me that he wanted me to find solutions to the naval aviation retention problem, and address the high drug use in the Navy. Six months later he signaled me to his office to announce I had been selected for promotion to Rear Admiral.
I remember back in 2007 during the decommissioning of Big John, Admiral Yates opined that he “felt like crying”. It definitely was a somber day as our baby was laid to rest, however, tomorrow’s keel laying will be a day of uprising and the beginning of a future that every single one of us will be proud to be a part. It is a day that a new JFK child will be born – it is the opening of a new chapter in the history of our JFK. Our illustrious CV-67 once carried a crew of about 4,600 and 70 combat aircraft. The new CVN-67 will again have a crew compliment of approximately 4,600, but will be powered by two nuclear reactors, will have a new arrangement making it a highly efficient and ultra-modern fighting surface vessel with no comparable design. Our Navy will remain the most powerful on the globe! It too, will be a day that you may “feel like crying”, but it will be tears of joy for the new JFK as it creates yet, another illustrious legacy.
We have a marvelous and proud heritage and are postured for an exciting future that is approaching at great velocity. What we have proven as yesterday’s accomplishments — are tomorrow’s expectations. We have not only shared history, we have shaped history and enabled the future!
Let us take a moment and remember those who, having exceeded human endurance, succumbed to mortality, because without them, we would be less than absent friends. God has blessed us by having had them in our lives.
May the most that you wish for be the least that you receive, and may your worst tomorrow be better than your best yesterday. As you slide down the bannister of life, ensure that all splinters lay fair.
You, who are present, are surrounded by fantastic opportunities, brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems. Your future is as bright as the light from heaven that Saul witnessed on the Road to Damascus – so, PROCEED, PERSERVERE, AND PREVAIL !
From one Commanding Officer of JFK, to the other Commanding Officers, and to all the men and women who had comprised the past JFK crews, and the future crews to come – I salute you.
VADM Jerry O. Tuttle, USN (Ret.)
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J.O.T. Enterprises, LLC