NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - More than 4,400 sailors and officers are home after a six-month deployment supporting operations in the Mediterranean and Arabian Sea.
USS Enterprise (CVN 65), along with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) and guided-missile destroyers USS Barry (DDG 52) and USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) returned to Naval Station Norfolk at 10:30 a.m. Friday.
A huge crowd was ready at the pier Friday morning as the ships pulled in to port. Excitement was in the air, especially for Christopher Nichols who was meeting his daughter for the first time.
"I was upset not being able to be there for the birth, but it's worth it waiting for today right now," said Nichols.
His father, Kenneth Nichols said the birth of his granddaughter holds special promise for a family that has been through a lot these last six months while his son was away, "It's just very emotional. The pride that we have and I have for my son is amazing. And holding his daughter for the first time, words can't explain."
For others the reunion was just as special.
"I couldn't wait. I was up on the pier or the boat looking down here. I just got chills all over. It's great to be home," said USS Enterprise CPO Ray Hagar.
Friday marked the end of the historic deployment of the nation's first nuclear aircraft carrier.
The USS Enterprise completed her 21st deployment in 50 years of service. Naval aviation has only been around 100 years.
CO Enterprise Strike Group ADM Terry Kraft said, "This ship is naval aviation. It typifies the spirit of the sailors and the aviators."
In addition to providing air support for ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the "Big E' played a significant role in counter piracy operations off the coast of Somalia.
"I could not be more proud," Kraft added, "75 pirates right now were taken into custody during the deployment. Many of those pirates are facing justice right here in Norfolk."
Including the pirates accused of killing four Americans aboard the sailboat, Quest.
Just days before the ship left Norfolk January 13, the ship's commander, Capt. Owen Honors was relieved of duty for producing questionable videos that were shown during the ship's movie nights. Capt. Dee Mewbourne was chosen to assume command.
Mewbourne said, "I told them when I took command, a ship cannot sail by yesterday's wind and we've got to look to the future."
USS Enterprise is scheduled for one more deployment before the ship will be decommissioned in 2013.
A company has been hired to complete the repairs to the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks, but how long those repairs will take remains unknown.
Drivers traveling between Hatteras Island and the mainland were forced to use an emergency ferry Wednesday, following the sudden closure of the Bonner Bridge Tuesday.
State officials say construction on a new Bonner Bridge has been delayed for years because of a legal battle with an environmental group.