PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - The Navy's next great ship began its life Tuesday at Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula. The Navy is naming the ship for a woman with a great place in Naval history.
It starts with a welder permanently etching the ship's sponsor's initials onto this metal plate, authenticating the keel for the Arleigh Burke class destroyer Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123).
"This is extremely exciting and a bit overwhelming," said one of the ship's sponsors, Pickett Wilson.
It's a ship that emanates girl power. Three women are the ship's sponsors; Pickett Wilson, Virginia Munford, and Louisa Dixon. The vessel's namesake is the first woman to receive the Navy Cross.
"I didn't know about Lenah Higbee until I read the bio," said Dixon.
And you probably haven't either.
Higbee joined the Navy in 1908 as a part of the newly-established Navy Nurse Corps, also known as The Sacred Twenty. Higbee served as superintendent of the corps during World War I.
"The opportunities for her were so limited in the Navy, but boy she made the best of it," Wilson said.
So, it was fitting to name the 34th Arleigh Burke class destroyer built by Ingalls in honor of the pioneer.
"I think it's wonderful they named this ship for this distinguished woman," said Munford.
The request to serve as sponsors came as a surprise to the trio.
"It's really the honor of my lifetime. I'm just so absolutely thrilled," Wilson said.
"It makes me appreciate the work of all these people at the shipyard who are getting down in the hull of ships, making sure it's safe and secure and strong for our servicemen and women," Munford said.
The women say they'll be there through each major milestone as Ingalls builds this vessel to be the Navy's next great ship.
The next milestone for the DDG 123 will be the christening, which is expected to be sometime in 2018.