JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Another ship has joined the fleet at Naval Station Mayport.
The pre-commissioned USS Cooperstown arrived Sunday morning ahead of possibly deploying early next year.
One family’s reunion on Sunday was different than most.
Commanding Senior Chief Keona Johnson who was on the ship is now back with her husband Keith and two kids Kiyon and Keith, Jr., in time for the holidays.
“I did not realize how much I missed it until I saw them on the pier. Every day it is hard or battle ridden. We were working hard from morning to night. So when I saw that it was like OK it is real. We are back,” said Keona Johnson, USS Cooperstown Command Senior Chief.
This dynamic is pretty different with the husband and wife both serving in the military for two decades. They were apart from each other for longer than they can remember this time because their deployments overlapped.
“I was deployed in Romania for a year. I got back and she was already gone when I got back. This is a true united front right here,” said Keith Johnson, Sr.
The new USS Cooperstown is making its debut in Mayport, a process that was two to three years in the making.
The 98 sailors on board spent the last three months in Marinette, Wisconsin preparing to be commissioned, which included building, training and certifying the crew.
Commanding Officer Evan Wright called the ship’s voyage one of the toughest for a recruit.
“I think it was a true test to the resolve and the grit of the crew. Coming together on kind of short notice and getting up there, coming together and working as a team,” said Captain Evan Wright USS Cooperstown Commanding Officer.
That voyage included a 3,500-mile trek, going through four Great Lakes, 15 sets of locks, the St. Lawrence River and Welland Canal before coming down to Mayport.
There were plenty of hugs and kisses to go around when the ship arrived at Mayport. For the Johnson family, it’s hard adjusting to the separation.
“We have both been in the military for a while but we are definitely happy to be reunited and to enjoy some family time,” Johnson said.
Until duty calls again.
The USS Cooperstown has not been commissioned yet. That is still up in the air. But a possible deployment may be in March 2023.