An ecstatic crowd of families and friends gathered Monday morning at Naval Base San Diego to welcome home sailors aboard USS Lake Erie. Loved ones held handmade signs and banners, waved American flags, and cheered as the guided-missile cruiser came in to dock.
The homecoming was a long time coming; the sailors were returning from a seven month overseas deployment in the waters of the Western Pacific, during which they traveled approximately 52,000 nautical miles, according to the U.S. Navy.
In the crowd were husbands, wives, children, and even new moms with babies the sailors were meeting for the first time. A young boy held a sign reading: “Get out of my way, I get my Daddy back today.”
While deployed, Lake Erie monitored shipping vessels in support of United Nations sanctions against North Korea. They worked to identify North Korean ships receiving products in violation of those sanctions, as well as the feeder networks providing the transfers, according to the U.S. Navy.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this crew and the way they handled themselves during this unique deployment,” said Capt. Christine O’Connell, commanding officer aboard Lake Erie. “The Lake Erie crew excelled through every challenge faced in that dynamic environment. We are all looking forward to hard-earned rest with loved ones.”
Lake Erie also participated in several community relations events while in ports, including teaching English to Japanese students in Yokosuka, Japan, and helping clean the grounds of a schoolhouse in Busan, South Korea, according to the U.S. Navy.
Once back on land, many sailors were thrilled to enjoy simple comforts for the first time in months. The first sailor off the ship clutched her favorite sandwich, saying: “I have been waiting seven months to eat this chicken sandwich, and it has been… worth it too.”