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New sub named for Carter

The USS Jimmy Carter in dry-dock The USS Jimmy Carter in dry-dock

Plains-- Soon the U. S. Navy will add one of the most technologically advanced submarines to its fleet, and it will be named after one of South Georgia's most notable natives-- President Jimmy Carter.

Thursday, hundreds of students from across the state helped him celebrate the commissioning of the new sub a few days early. The majority of those students are now in the same shoes Carter once walked in himself years ago. They are cadets in the Navy Junior ROTC. Whether they plan to join the military or not, the students say meeting Carter was an inspiration.

There was a special military entrance for a Nobel peace winner, former president, and small time peanut farmer. "I went all the way from an ROTC student to commander in chief, said President Carter. "So some of you in this room ought to set your goals that high."

But before he even said a word, Lee County High School cadets say they were inspired by just being in Carter's presence. "It gives us great pride that they think of us to call us to do these kinds of color guards," says Joanie Upton, Cadet Lt. Commander of the Lee County Navy Junior ROTC.

"He went from an ROTC cadet to a president, and I really respect him a lot, and he has a lot of pride and leadership for himself," adds Color Guard commander Rebecca Arnold.

The students were invited to help celebrate the upcoming commissioning of the USS Jimmy Carter. It will the biggest of all the Seawolves, and the most advanced in the U. S. Naval fleet.

"I'm also enormously proud to have this ship named for me. It means a lot because my name will be on it, but it also means a lot because it's perhaps the finest ship on earth," Carter says.

A replica of the sub hangs in the Plains High School museum. Carter says he hopes the real one will never have to be used in combat, but he says it will... "Let us continue to enhance freedom and democracy and peace around the world. That's the purpose of the USS Jimmy Carter, and I'm really grateful for it to bear my name," Carter says.

The motto of USS Jimmy Carter will be "Semper Optima," Latin for "always the best." Saturday after it's commissioned, it will officially become part of the Navy's fleet.

The USS Jimmy Carter weighs more than 12,000 tons and is 453 feet in length. Carter isn't the only president to have a ship, or submarine named after him, but he was the only one to qualify to serve on one.

President Carter also received a special gift from some talented Dougherty High school students. The Dougherty High chorale was the featured choir at the student commissioning celebration. They belted out a medley of patriotic songs.

The students also presented Carter with a copy of their new CD. The students say it was a performance of a lifetime.

"I felt very, very special. I just couldn't stop looking at the former president Jimmy Carter," says Jasmine Richardson.

"I felt that when he walked in the room I lit up. It was truly and experience and moment for me being a military child," adds Crystal Kelly.

After their performance Carter said the Dougherty High Chorale was the best choir to ever sing in the Plains High School auditorium in it's 82 year history.

posted by dave.miller@walb.com