USS Iwo Jima, USS Fort McHenry arrive at Mayport

Families meet sailors, Marines on board ships

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A complete Amphibious Ready Group is now assembled with Mayport as its home.

The homeport shift was complete Sunday afternoon following the arrival of USS Iwo Jima and USS Fort McHenry.

News4Jax reporter Kent Justice sailed aboard Iwo Jima on its trip from Norfolk to NS Mayport.

It was routine and yet eventful for the crew of Iwo Jima this weekend. More than 1,000 sailors and their families were on the ship, plus the crew of Fort McHenry, began making a home in Jacksonville.

That's the welcome to the men and women serving America as sailors and Marines on the two ships. Short speeches from Navy officers and dignitaries welcomed the new ships.

Then, unlike a homecoming from deployment, it became a test of endurance for families.

"Has it been a long wait already?" asked Justice. "How long will you wait?"

"As long as it takes," said Elijah Jones.

PHOTOS: 2 ships call Mayport their new home

All of the excitement surrounding the arrival of USS Iwo Jima and then, the toughest part probably for the families, was waiting through a ceremony -- an important ceremony, where the mayor and many other dignitaries announced this is a great thing for Jacksonville.

But really what's in it for those families are the sailors who come down a ramp and greet their families once again.

"You're waiting for someone, but they're not running down the ramp. Is this tough for you?" asked Justice.
"It is, it is, and he might have several hours yet to go," said Jen Carlin, waiting for her husband, FCC Carlin. "But just knowing he's here is half the battle."

Luca was waiting for his dad.

"He flies helicopters," said Luca. "I'm going to give him a great big hug."

"We've been a Navy family many years, so we're kind of used to it," said Kaysha Jones, waiting for her husband. "And it's worth it at the end of the day."

Iwo Jima's crew is in town for a short time before the ship heads out for training exercises, and then out for deployment sometime in December.

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