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USS The Sullivans deploys from Mayport in emotional send-off

Sailors on guided-missile destroyer to take part in missile defense operation

MAYPORT, Fla. – More than 300 sailors shipped out of Naval Station Mayport aboard the USS The Sullivans on Saturday morning during an emotional departure.

The sailors said sad farewells to their loved ones on the docks before boarding the guided-missile destroyer for their next deployment.

Sailors embraced their husbands, wives, children, and families on the docks before climbing aboard the ship for a six to seven month mission.

Some families faced their first deployment including the Arnolds who say their three month old girl will make their time apart that much harder.

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"It hurts. It really does. I'm definitely scared, don’t want to leave her behind." said Seaman Justin Arnold.

His wife said she feels the same way.

"I’m a little nervous you know, because I’m going to have to raise her on my own for a little while and he is going to miss us so much of her life. Being gone longer is going to be harder and plus, just not seeing him every day. You’re just expecting to see him come through the door every day, but he is not going to be," said Megan Arnold.  

Sailors who have been through it before understand it’s not easy, but are thankful to have a special family at sea.

USS The Sullivans is a guided-missile destroyer named after five brothers who enlisted together, and were killed in World War Two.

"We have tried to live up to our name sake and to embody that spirit of teamwork and family on the ship and I think at the crew does a fantastic job of that," said US Navy Lieutenant Daphne White.

The ship’s motto is ‘We Stick Together’—something Lieutenant Daphne White says makes all the difference when you’re away from loved ones for several months. 

"We are a flight one destroyer. We are going to be deploying with the Harry S Truman carrier striker to the Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation. We went through just over a year of training and preparation for this deployment. We have been underway to practice everything from fire fighting to General quarters. We have 22 different warfare areas on the ship and we have had the opportunity of over the past several months to train to each one of those warfare areas 

The ballistic missile defense deployment is expected to last for at least six months possibly seven.

USS The Sullivans is an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided-missile destroyer.

It is the second ship of the U.S. Navy to be named for the five Sullivan brothers – George, Francis, Joseph, Madison and Albert Sullivan, ages 20 to 27 – who lost their lives when their ship, the USS Juneau, was sunk by a Japanese submarine in November 1942 in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (the first ship named for them was a Fletcher-class destroyer launched in 1943 and decommissioned in 1965). 

It was the greatest military loss by any one American family during World War II. In 2000, a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda attempted to attack and destroy The Sullivans, but the attackers' boat sank before the attack could be carried out.

The Sullivan brothers insisted they deploy together and serve together during the war.  Their bravery and dedication led the Navy to name the destroyer after the brothers.

Upon her commissioning in 1995, the ship was given the motto that is thought to have been spoken by the brothers when asked to separate during World War II, "We Stick Together." 


About the Authors:

Florida-born multi-media journalist pays special attention to issues in St. Johns County.