Mayport-based ship returns from operation Southeast Watch

Crew rescued 54 Haitian migrants in Fla. Straits; 5 on boat off coast of Mayport

MAYPORT, Fla. – The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Valiant returned to their homeport in Naval Station Mayport Friday following a 10-week deployment to the Florida Straits and Windward Passage.

The 210-foot ship and it's 80-member crew were welcomed by a throng of happy family members.

During the patrol, Valiant and other Coast Guard assets worked with Customs and Border Protection to detect, interdict and rescue individuals attempting to illegally enter the United States.

Less than an hour before it docked at Mayport, the crew of the Valiant rescued five people whose 29-foot boat was taking on water about six miles offshore. The Valient and a 45-foot Coast Guard response boat from Mayport responded to a distress call from that the boat was headed into the St. Johns River.

PHOTOS: 54 Hatian migrants rescued at sea

"I'm extremely proud of the important humanitarian mission done by each of our 80 crew members over the past two months," said Cmdr. Adam Chamie, commanding officer of the Cutter Valiant. " We're excited to be back in Jacksonville reunited with our loved ones for the 4th of July holiday. They are the ones who truly sacrificed during this patrol."

The 79-year-old ship is the only Coast Guard Cutter afloat today to receive two Presidential Citations for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy