Naval Station Mayport, Fla. – Hundreds of sailors made it home in time for Thanksgiving when the USS the Sullivans arrived at Naval Station Mayport on Wednesday following a seven-month deployment.
Around 300 sailors were reunited with their overjoyed families in an exciting and emotional day full of hugs, kisses and happy tears.
Julie Mink awaited the return of her sailor husband, Corey, with their 4-year-old daughter, Olivia, and their newborn baby, Charlotte. When Corey stepped off the ship Wednesday, he met Charlotte for the first time.
“It’s crazy,” Mink said. “Sailors, we kind of expect that we might miss births, birthdays and holidays but to actually be on your way and know that you have a child at home waiting for you and your spouse holding it down, it was pretty wild and surreal to come home and be able to hold her for the first time.”
Olivia jumped into her father’s arms.
“You think about them every night before you go to bed and you just count down the hours until you get to see their smiles again,” Corey Mink said of reuniting with his family.
Sailor Anthony Nelson’s daughter was 8 weeks old when he left. Despite being apart, she learned a new word: “Dada.”
“I’m excited for him to hear her saying ‘dada’ for the first time,” his wife, Jessica Nelson, said. “She absolutely knows her daddy.”
Mink, Nelson and the rest of the crew of the Arleigh Burk-class guided missile destroyer navigated the South China Sea and worked with the British Navy during their mission.
“It was amazing, honestly. It’s definitely something I’ll be telling about for years, for sure,” Nelson said.
According to the Navy, during the deployment, the crew navigated over 50,000 nautical miles and participated in multinational operations and joint training exercises with international partners.
The purpose of the mission was to foster positive relationships while encouraging freedom of navigation and maritime security.
Families at Mayport on Wednesday said they are grateful to have their loved ones home for Thanksgiving.
“It’s surreal. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. Maybe once we get home, all of the emotions will start flooding in. I’m still kind of in shock,” Julie Mink said.
Corey Mink said he’s looking forward to seeing his family every day and enjoying a little egg nog on Thanksgiving day.