Former sailors relive a chapter of their lives one last time

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND – Emotions were on hold while the USS Independence was still off shore. She was in view. Sailors from near and far anxiously awaited to see this boat one last time.

Stories were swapped by sailors proudly boasting their caps and shirts bearing the name of the boat.

As the Independence was pulled through along the jetties of Isla Blanca Park emotions ran high.

“I got sentimental,” Roberto Tobias from Laredo said.

Tobias served on the USS Independence from 1989-93. He talked about a time when he got to move his family Japan as well as why he loved the boat.

Tobias said he served on three different aircraft carriers but the USS Independence was his favorite.

“The highlights of my career were on this aircraft carrier,” he said.

Before a ship goes into deployment pilots qualify to see who will be awarded final clearance to fly. Tobias remembered having a zero down time at CAT No. 2. The catapult where he worked went two weeks straight launching aircrafts. His department head told him as far as the history of carriers on the West Coast it had never been done before.

Tobias enjoyed being with his crew and everything fell into place.

“Overall it was a great ship and I loved it,” Tobias said. “I'm happy to see it again and I sad to see it go.”

For Tobias it took him and his family four hours to get to the coast, but for Pete Rico, he and his wife trekked 14 hours from Tulsa, Oklahoma to see the final port to call.

Rico was on the USS Independence from 1965-68. He said the people he served with still see each other with a reunion association.

Rico was 19 years old when served on a fairly new boat. But him serving in the Navy is how his wife Barbara came into the picture. This year the couple is celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

Rico was not only friends with Barbara's brother but they served together.

“I finally forced myself on him,” she quipped about getting married.

The USS Independence was in service from 1959 until 1998 when the boat returned to Yokosuka, Japan to conclude its final deployment. It was decommissioned at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington.