NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. – Veterans gathered Thursday morning for a special breakfast at Naval Station Mayport to honor those who served on the USS Saratoga.
The aircraft carrier spent her entire career in Jacksonville, starting in 1957, and was the first carrier homeported in Mayport.
Paul Mullendore spent time serving on the ship during more than 30 years of service.
"I had about 30 people that I led and their responsibilities were to maintain the ship’s radars,” Mullendore said.
During the 1980s, the USS Saratoga was nicknamed “Super Sara” because she underwent the most extensive industrial overhaul ever performed on a Navy ship, taking more than two years.
The USS Saratoga was deployed more than 20 times, including during the Gulf War in 1990. During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher and his FA-18 were shot down, making him the first U.S. casualty of the Gulf War. His remains were found nearly two decades later.
"That group of people is our Navy and our military so when we can understand the sacrifices that they have made, it makes us better people and better sailors,” said Bill Houlihan, Command Master Chief of the Navy Region Southeast.
After numerous deployments, the USS Saratoga was decommissioned in 1994.
She maintained a crew of 2,700 and an Air Wing of 2,480.
The breakfast began with a Navy tradition. Veterans were “piped in” at 6:45 a.m.
"Our tradition binds us all together, so regardless of where you come from, why you chose to serve in our great Navy, our tradition is what binds us over a span of generations and to be here and have an opportunity to celebrate with sailors who served aboard the USS Saratoga is just an unbelievable experience,” said Petty Officer 1st Class William Ferguson.