Families holding dozens of roses and displaying big smiles greeted 150 U.S. Navy sailors who returned home to Kings Bay on Thursday afternoon.
Before returning to the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, the sailors docked the USS Georgia on Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean, so another crew could take over their mission. The sailors then took a 38-hour flight to Jacksonville.
The sailors had been on duty since August.
One after another, the sailors stepped out of the bus that brought them to Kings Bay and were greeted by family. One sailor saw his son in person for the first time.
"I think he looks like me," said sailor Todd Philips. "Everybody says he looks like me."
Another father counted his daughter's teeth.
"I was just so excited to show him how she's grown and changed," said Gianna Skates, the wife of sailor Jon Skates.
"She wasn't even crawling when I left and now she's walking," Jon Skates said.
But spending extended time away makes it difficult for their families back home.
"All the milestones with the children that he misses," said Jeanne Sanda, another sailor's wife. "Sadly, when a day passes by, we can't get that day back. And having to do that without him, that's the hardest part."
"I know for myself it was a lot of deep meditations and just knowing that we're always going to be connected, no matter if we're across the world from each other or in each other's arms," Gianna Skates said.
The sailors were supposed to come in December, but their mission was extended.
"That was tough," sailor Bryan Sanda said. "It was my first Christmas not being home."
Lt. Helen Teague came home to her husband as the first woman to return from the USS Georgia.
"It's like having 150 brothers, actually," she said. "It's a lot of fun."
Women weren't allowed to work on submarines until November.
"I think the submarine force can only benefit from this," Teague said. "We have a lot of really intelligent women coming through the nuclear pipeline."
"They're very smart and I think they can just add to what is already an outstanding crew," she added.
But the crew and their families are simply happy to be together again.
"I guess if my husband had to be away, I'm glad that he's away serving our county and doing his part in making the world a safer place for our children to grow up," Jeanne Sanda said. "It's just amazing to have our family be complete again."
The crew will continue training to remain mission ready at all times.