EDINBURG – When Juan G. Mata was in the Navy he was spent some time on the USS Independence as a airman.
Mata was stationed with VS-21 (CVW5), the squadron attached to U.S.S. Independence. He was
Thousands of veterans spent time on the USS Independence while she was in service for 39 years. The boat was the last of the Forrestal-class of supercarriers will be the third of its kind to be recycled by International Shipbreaking.
The ship was towed around South America through the Strait of Magellan from the Seattle area.
Mata and his family will make the hour-long drive to South Padre Island to see the USS Independence one last time before she is stripped and scrapped for parts.
“You get sad to see them go,” Mata said of the fate of former Navy ships. “Which is sad because the government rather sell them than make them floating museums like the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi.”
Mata remembers his time with the ship including four deployments to the Persian Gulf. He remembers when the ship was decommissioned almost 20 years ago.
At the closing ceremony it will be a nice experience to share with his family a part of his life when he was the same age of his 19-year-old daughter but it will be bittersweet.
The Edinburg-native said sometimes family will visit and his wife and kids will talk about going to South Padre Island and being joyful but Mata isolates himself for a moment and reflects.
“As they talk about it I kind of sit by myself and think I haven't seen the ship in almost 21 years,” he said. “I'm going to be happy to see her but I'll probably cry a bit.”
Weather permitting the USS Independence ceremony will take place Thursday June 1 at Dolphin Cove of Isla Blanca Park at 8 a.m.