USS Halyburton returns to Mayport for final time

200 sailors on board; ship to be decommissioned this year

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 200 sailors returned to Naval Station Mayport on Wednesday morning after spending the last five months abroad.

The sailors were stationed on board USS Halyburton (FFG 40) and helicopter squadron HSL-46 Detachment on a five-month deployment to the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/4th Fleet area of responsibility.

The ship will be decommissioned later this year and returned to shore for the final time Wednesday.

IMAGES: USS Halyburton's final homecoming

Sailor Kordrey Rucker met his 1-month-old son.

"Glad to be home, glad to see my son, to see my wife," he said. "Just glad to be back."

"Of course I'm happy. I've been waiting for him to come home for how many months?" said Alisha Rucker, Kordrey's wife.


Caitlin Stephens reunited with her husband and their baby, who was just 3 months old when Stephens' husband deployed. Stephens said she had the help of her mother, but is ready to have her man back on shore.

"Wake up and take care of the kids and worry about him, make sure he's OK, hoping he comes home safely," she said.

Another mom was thrilled to be reunited with her husband of 18 years. Angela Saffel said this was her husband Wayne's fourth and last deployment. He will go to shore duty until he retires in a year and a half.

"He does miss Daddy a lot," Saffel said of their son. "He's been asking for him a lot, and the kids and I, we just stay busy. That's the key to it: Just stay busy."

USS Halyburton is named for the late Pharmacist's Mate Second Class William David Halyburton Jr., who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism as a U.S. Marine, killed in action in the battle for Okinawa during World War II.

USS Halyburton was commissioned on Jan. 7, 1984, and is the 34th ship of the Oliver Hazard Perry class of guided missile frigates.

The ship stopped nine shipments, or 1,899 kilograms, of cocaine on its latest deployment.

"Not only the capturing of the cocaine, but rendering the assistance to the fishing," Sailor Ryan Tillotson said. "Our friends with fishing fleets, they saved some fisherman as well as being involved in a life-saving mission with the Panamanians' crews themselves."

The ship completed more than 30 years of service and is currently the second oldest frigate in the U.S. Navy.  It's decommissioning will be the eighth for Mayport in the last three years.

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