JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 300 Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) arrived at Naval Station Mayport Monday morning.
Mayport is the USS Mason’s new home port. The stop is a scheduled homeport shift from Norfolk, Virginia. The sailors arrived at 8 a.m. in Jacksonville.
Nyla Hudson and her 5-month-old daughter, Salem, had waited months to be reunited with her husband, ITSN Alexzander Searles. When their moments finally came, everything felt whole again.
“I think, it’s been about 2 months since I’ve seen her, since they came up to Norfolk,” ITSN Searles said. “It’s just good to see my family again, it’s been a while.”
Searles said while he was born in Naples, he grew up in Jacksonville, making this homecoming even more special.
“It’s definitely a good feeling pulling in,” ITSN Searles said. “Seeing the beaches I grew up going to with my dad, seeing all the land. That’s kind of, home to me.”
FC3 William Edenfield couldn’t wait to see his wife, Hanna.
“It was a long time coming,” FC3 Edenfield said. “It feels a lot longer than it really was. I’m definitely glad to be home.”
Commanding Officer Stephen Valerio began his officer career at Mayport. Now he’s coming full circle.
“Last time I was in Mayport was in 2006, so it’s 16 years later, I’m back here in the place in the United States that I’ve lived the longest, that I call home,” CO Valerio said. “And now I bring my ship to call it home now.”
The ship has quite a history. It is the third U.S. Navy ship with the name USS Mason. It’s named in honor of the crew of the second. That USS Mason was one of two U.S. Navy ships with a majority Black crew during World War II.
The Current USS Mason made headlines in 2016. During Yemen’s current war, the Mason came under fire from two missiles launched out of Yemen.
While they did not reach the ship, the United States retaliated with missile strikes on three coastal radar sites.