After seven months apart, U.S. Navy sailors returned home to roaring applause from family members excited to reunite with their loved ones.
Servicemembers aboard the USS Spruance returned to Naval Base San Diego Monday morning after a long deployment -- some even returning to meet their children for the first time.
“It feels really – I’m not going to lie, it was rough out there, man. It was really rough being away from family, but I’m just really glad to be home right now and see my daughter for the first time,” said sailor Dominique Ford.
Ford then held his baby girl in his arms for the very first time.
“I’m real happy to be home,” he said.
LTJG Taylor Cuddy won a raffle, known as the “first kiss.” It allowed him to be one of the first sailors to exit the ship and see his family again.
NBC 7 caught the moment as he exited the USS Spruance and reunited with his wife.
Their kiss was met with cheers from other military families.
“I’m so ecstatic. I’m so ready and happy to have him back,” Brendaliz Cuddy said.
And to add to the celebrations, Monday was Taylor Cuddy’s birthday. He said his homecoming was the greatest gift he could have gotten.
When asked how they would spend the special day, Taylor Cuddy said, “What anyone who’s been working for seven months wants to do -- nothing. Just want to enjoy the rest of my day with my family.”
Yvonne Pichardo was also waiting at the port for her loved one, recalling the challenges of being away for so many months.
“As a mother, it’s horrible. Only talking to them through email. Just happy they’re coming home,” she told NBC 7.
Brendaliz Cuddy echoed this idea, saying it was difficult to get through the holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, without her husband.
“If it wasn’t for our family, I probably wouldn’t have gotten through it,” she told NBC 7.
USS Spruance was one of two ships scheduled to return to Naval Base San Diego Monday. USS Stockdale was set to make its homecoming later that day.
While deployed, the Navy said the two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers participated in multiple exercises throughout the Indo-Pacific and Middle Eastern regions.