JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The USS Little Rock arrived at Naval Station Mayport homeport Thursday morning to cheers and welcome signs from dozens of families and friends waiting on the dock.
The sailors were gone for eight months. For some families, it was the first time they had gone through a deployment and spent time away from loved ones. Others who have been through the process several times, admit the separation is still just as difficult for them.
U.S. Navy Sailor Kenton Belfon was overjoyed to see his wife and three kids for the first time since last summer.
"(It's) Relaxing to know I am back and to be able to be with my family and get to see them and spend time with them.. (It was) a long time in coming, I missed them a lot, so it was just amazing," Belfon said.
The combat ship will be homeported Naval Station Mayport.
More than six months ago, it was commissioned by the U.S. Navy in Buffalo, New York, but it was trapped on the St. Lawrence River for three months due to icy conditions.
The crew of about 70 sailors continued to train while at port in Montreal.
The ship's captain said they dealt with the worst winter condition they had experienced in 20 years, and now, they are happy to be here in the Sunshine State.
The USS Little Rock began its journey toward Mayport last Saturday.
Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine delivered the ship that was later commissioned as the USS Little Rock to the Navy in September.
The Littoral Combat Ship 9 vessel cost an estimated $568 million, according to the Congressional Research Service.
— Allyson Henning (@WJXTAllyson) April 12, 2018
This is not the first ship in the U.S. Navy to be named Little Rock. The original ship carrying that name, a light cruiser commissioned just after the end of World War II, docked in Jacksonville back in 1962, according to the USS Little Rock Association.