NORFOLK -- Just under 200 sailors arrived home onboard the frigate USS Elrod. After six months at sea they couldn't wait to get off and get reunited.
'I'm glad to be back, said EN3 Thomas Huertas.' Glad my family came all the way from Philly to come see me, and I want to thank God cause I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him.'
The Elrod is nearly 30 years old and will be decommissioned in January. She is part of the frigate phase-out going on in the navy.
'Oh, she's got about another 10 years in her, but she's a good ship, good crew and we're glad to be home,' exclaimed Chief Grady Carmack
On their deployment, the crew trained with Tunisians in a West Africa partnership and they also rescued hundreds of stranded fisherman in the central Med.
'We sent in our SARS swimmer and he was able to pull three of them out,' said Commander Brad Stallings, Commanding Officer of the USS Elrod. Nobody passed away everybody survived and everybody got onboard the Bataan safely - almost 300,'
It's been said there's nothing like a homecoming especially when a crowd of family shows up. We asked GSM2 Michael Ware who was there to meet himM
'Oh everybody. my wife, my son, my daughter, grandmom, inlaws, sister-in-law, sister, and my mom,'he said.
While 51 frigates comprise the Oliver Perry class, the Navy has reduced that number to single digits. Lawmakers and Navy leaders, faced with diminishing budgets, made the decision to sell most frigates to foreign navies as the ships' hulls hit their three-decade lifespan.
The service will bid farewell to its last frigate, Kauffman, in October 2015. Indeed, the frigate's fate made this a bitter sweet homecoming for many of Elrod's sailors.
Still, there wasn't a sad face in the crowd.
'I'm happy. That's all I can say. I'm excited. My kids are happy. My family's back together. That's all,' concluded Cierra Ware.
(Navy Times contributed to this story)