MAYPORT, Fla. – Hundreds of sailors are reunited with loved ones after returning home to Naval Station Mayport on Friday morning aboard the USS The Sullivans.
Navy families waiting on the docks couldn't stop cheering as they watched their loved ones standing aboard the ship as it moved closer to shore.
Then it was the reuniting of families and loved ones. Dads were hugging children. New moms were kissing sailors, some of whom have never met their newborn baby until that moment.
When Brandon Staples got ahold of his little girl, there was no letting go. Being away has been hard on him, his wife and their children.
"It's worth it in the end. I mean, we're here to serve our country. But this is the best gift to come home to, especially at Christmas time," Staples said.
Ken Woodington couldn't be happier to welcome his husband of just one year, Bryan, home for Christmas.
"It was a lot. I miss him very much, and it was our first deployment. And I've never been away from him that long. It just means so much to have him back," Woodington.
Sharing in the joy is Marci Seymore. Her daughter turned 2 years old while she was deployed.
"It's amazing to see how much I've missed. I was like, her legs are going to drag the ground when I pick
her up! It's definitely amazing," Seymore said.
Now that they're home with Christmas practically here, it is a time for togetherness and quality time spent together.
History of USS The Sullivans
USS The Sullivans was deployed to the Persian Gulf and Europe about seven months ago in May.
During its deployment, the ship and its crew supported maritime security operations -- navigating more than 40,000 nautical miles.
Now those sailors will be spending some quality time with loved ones just in time for the holidays.
USS The Sullivans is a guided-missile destroyer named after five brothers who enlisted together and were killed in World War II.
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."