The USS John F. Kennedy returned to the 35th president's home state Thursday for the last time before decommissioning later this month.

"Big John," as the aircraft carrier is called, is making a five-day stop in Boston before heading to Florida for decommissioning. Following decommissioning, it will be placed on inactive status and maintained in Philadelphia.

The ship was christened in May 1967 by the former president's then 9-year-old daughter, Caroline. It entered Navy service in September 1968.

Kennedy's maiden voyage was to the Mediterranean in response to instability in the Middle East.

One of two remaining fossil fuel powered aircraft carriers in the Navy, Kennedy supported Operation Desert Shield in 1990, and was deployed in February 2002 to the North Arabian Sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Kennedy also supported Operation Iraqi Freedom in June 2004, its airwing dropping more than 54,000 pounds of bombs on Iraq.

Based at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., since September 1995, Kennedy most recently served as a training platform for Navy pilots to obtain carrier landing qualifications.

Kennedy, with a crew of about 4,600, is more than 1,050 feet long, displaces 82,000 tons and can carry 70 combat aircraft.

The ship first visited Boston in 1970 and returned seven more times, most recently in 2005, before Thursday.