NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Rain couldn’t dampen the excitement at Naval Station Norfolk Thursday as the Wasp-class amphibious ship USS Kearsarge returned home after a seven-month deployment. But a technical glitch could.
Families and friends lined the pier on Oct. 13, anxious to see their Sailors in person again.
“I am so happy. Seven months goes by quick once you look back at it but those first few weeks,” Ben Ukes said.
There was a delay in getting the Sailors off the ship though, because of issues with the ship’s gangway. The Navy had to locate a backup ramp, according to WAVY’s Lauryn Moss, covering Thursday’s homecoming.
The more than 4,000 Sailors and Marines assigned to the Kearsarge supported a wide range of interoperability opportunities and exercises in the High North, North Atlantic, Central Mediterranean and Baltic regions.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this crew. It accomplished every mission and then some,” Capt. Tom Foster, USS Kearsarge Commanding Officer, said.
These exercises helped increase combat readiness and crisis capabilities while also strengthening relationships with NATO allies and partners.
“They were ready and they delivered. Each and every sailor and marine executed more than asked of this,” Capt Aaron Kelley, Commander of the Kearsarge Amphibious Group, said.
One little girl got a happy surprise. She learned her dad was returning home.
“What was it like getting that surprise today that he was coming home? Overwhelming,” she said.
She is a bit of a pro. She has been through three deployments with her dad and looks forward to having out with him.
Krystyna Ohrum said they are taking a family vacation. The kids hinted at a Disney World trip.
Stacey Powell was excited to see her son. Her family traveled from Georgia.
“My son Davis is coming home. I am happy and excited,” she said.
His grandmother, Joyce Batten, can’t wait to spend some quality time with him.
“He’s coming to the country. The deep woods of Georgia. He is going to spend most of his time with me,” Batten said.
Ukes did a role swap with his daughter.
Back in 2006, he returned from his fourth deployment. His daughter was waiting for his return. Now, he waited pierside for her arrival.
“I’ve done this before for friends, but it’s different when you have a child,” he said.
He retired in 2011. His daughter is carrying the torch. She finished her first deployment.
“I know she knows I love her. I am praying she had a great time and we can sit down and share similar memories,” he said.
The USS Arlington and USS Gunston Hall also returned Thursday.