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2 ships return to Mayport after 7-month deployment

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 4,000 military families shared hugs and kisses Monday morning when two ships returned to Mayport Naval Station.

The USS Iwo Jima and USS Fort McHenry have been on a seven-month deployment to the Middle East. completing several missions including playing a crucial role in Yemen evacuation and contingency operations. 

As the ships docked the were hundreds of cheering wives, children, parents and friends waiting with hugs and kisses, laughter and tears.

One dad kissed his baby girl for the first time. And a proposal just in time for another birth.

Michael Cundriff got down on one knee and asked Tia Thinault to marry him just two weeks before she is due to have his baby.

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"He's home right in time," Thinault said. 

The sailors agree that the longing for home was the worst for those expecting children.

""It can be stressful out there," Cundiff said. "A couple hiccups every once in a while, but we stayed strong and were there for each other the whole time. That's the main key for it all."

Monday's homecoming comes one day after the USS New York returned, carrying more than 360 sailors.

The that eight-month deployment involved strengthened ties between the U.S. and other nations including Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and France. They also worked on maritime security operations. 

"This is our first deployment. We have a 4-year-old son named Christopher and we have a new addition named Lillian. This is the first time that she will be meeting her dad. I'm glad to have him home. Our family's complete," said Kristina Casavant, whose husband returned from overseas Sunday.