Families reunited after USS Donald Cook returns home

More than 200 sailors are back home with their families.

MAYPORT, Fla. – More than 200 sailors are back home with their families.

The USS Donald Cook returned to Mayport on Sunday morning after a three-month deployment.

The views of reunions never get old. There are always plenty of hugs and kisses.

There might even be surprises, like what Hailey Misener did.

She dressed up in a Winnie-the-Pooh costume to welcome back her boyfriend, seaman Elijah Kuntzi.

“We always wear these outfits out in public just to get laughs out of people and I figured today would be perfect,” Misener said.

“It was amazing,” Kuntzi said, who also added he was not embarrassed by the costume. “I missed her so much.”

First-class petty officer Michaela Belew has been serving the country for seven years.

She could not wait to see her 2-year-daughter, Summer.

“I’m like a kid walking in a candy store,” Belew said. “I have everything I want right now.”

240 sailors on board The USS Donald Cook were back out on missions supporting NATO allies and providing additional force.

Commanding Officer Matthew Curnen says they visited ports in Denmark, Germany, and England along the way.

“It was a little bit unexpected, but I think we were well prepared,” Curnen said about the mission. “The crew executed absolutely brilliantly. [After] pulling into places like Copenhagen and Germany where we were able to have people on board and show them how awesome the U.S. Navy is.”

The ship received some warfare excellence awards in communications, engineering and ship safety

The USS Donald Cook went through extensive training and exercises to ready to go after docking in Mayport in July 2021 until its latest deployment that started in January.

For now, the sailors are back and there is a sense of relief.

“When we went out, we had no idea when we were going to come back,” Kuntzi said.

“It felt super longer than it was,” Misener said. “I am just really excited and I’m glad that [Elijah Kuntzi] will be home. It will feel like home again.”

Maintenance is up next for this ship as it will get some repairs.

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