NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – USS George H.W. Bush returned to Naval Station Norfolk on Apr. 23 after an eight-month deployment.

The George H.W. Bush departed in August and, during its deployment, participated in NATO-led vigilance activity Neptune Strike and Juniper Oak 23-2, which is the largest bi-lateral U.S. Israeli exercise in history.

The ship also supported combined operations with key NATO allies.

“Since taking command before deployment, I have had the privilege and honor to serve with the finest warriors, teachers, leaders, and ambassadors in the U.S. Navy,” said Capt. Dave Pollard, commanding officer of George H.W. Bush. “Our Sailors serve our great nation honorably, exemplifying the service, grit, humility and resilience our namesake, President George Herbert Walker Bush, displayed throughout his life of service to family and country.”

He said a big part of the crew’s mission was to strengthen NATO relations.

“We completed 35 key liter engagements for 1,536 of our NATO allies, hosting special events in every country that we visited. All a part of our effort to reinforce the strong relationship that we have with our NATO allies.”

While he said his crews did exceptional work, he referred to their loved ones as the unsung heroes.

“I have an awesome husband who sent me about 20 care packages, and I got to facetime with the kids every port,” Sailor Jessica Staggs said.

Sailor Devonte Randolph’s mom drove seven hours from Pennsylvania to welcome him back.

He said after the mission being his first deployment, he’s happy to finally see his little girls again.

“It feels unreal to be honest, but I’m happy to see my family ready to be back, so step by step.”

Last month, Tom Cruise, Hannah Waddingham and Blanco Brown visited the George H.W. Bush during their deployment as part of a USO tour.

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