PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - It's the first major milestone for any ship - the keel authentication.
The ceremony marks the beginning of construction by laying the keel of the hull. A ship's authenticators sign the keel plate, then a welder makes the mark permanent.
"I'm overwhelmed with it, I really am. I'm very excited about it, I'm humbled," said Ima Black, the ship's sponsor.
Named Delbert D. Black (DDG 119), the vessel is the newest guided missile destroyer being built by Ingalls shipbuilding. The ship's namesake is Black's deceased husband, the first master chief petty officer of the Navy.
"It's too bad, you know, that he's not here to receive the honors instead of me," said Black.
Navy Seals gathered around a small tent for the ceremony. The president of Ingalls gave a speech, as well as the current Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, and the program manager.
But it was Mrs. Black's speech that many say was most memorable. Delivering pun after pun, the widow made sure to tell builders to quickly construct the ship.
"Because I'm 95 years old and building a ship is a process, you know," said Black. "They will tell you I always say to him, 'Hurry up, I'm running out of time.'"
Earnest Wiley was the co-authenticator of the ship, and is a general ship superintendent at Ingalls. He says the honor came as a surprise.
"It was shocking and then, basically, I didn't really believe it. But after it set in, it was really great," Wiley said.
The ship will be christened sometime early 2017, and will be the 32nd Arleigh Burke class destroyer Ingalls has built for the Navy.