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More than 4,000 sailors return to Norfolk after a 7-month deployment

The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge returned to Pier 10 at Naval Station Norfolk. Families and loved ones waited by the pier to reunite with them.
Credit: 13News Now
Thousands of sailors are back home following a seven month deployment

NORFOLK, Va. — More than 4,000 sailors are back on U.S. soil again after a seven-month deployment.

USS Kearsarge, USS Arlington, and USS Gunston Hall all docked at Naval Station Norfolk on Thursday morning.

"I could not be more proud of this crew," said Captain Tom Foster, the commanding officer of USS Kearsarge. "They accomplished every mission and then some. They are true professionals and patriots."

During their deployment, sailors visited three continents, 29 ports, and covered parts of the North Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Baltic regions. 

Navy captains said they achieved their mission of strengthening relations with all NATO members and their partners. 

"We worked extensively with our NATO partners and with Sweden and Finland as they sought NATO membership," said Foster. "We sent a strong message of U.S. support to the nations in the region as a counter to Russian aggression."

Families and loved ones waited by the pier to reunite with the Navy sailors on Thursday.

"We drove 1,252 miles for this. We're from Minnesota," said Andrea Strychalski. "My sister is on USS Kearsarge and we would travel all those miles again just to see her!"

The reunion is especially emotional for Navy parents who missed the birth of a child while deployed or left young children behind.

"My daughter is now 10 months and I had to miss her first crawl, her first food, her first real laugh," said Jonathan Ulloa, a Navy sailor. "I knew that when I came back I was just going to be happy to see them, and I was going to do the best that I could because it was a sacrifice for them too." 

Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit also went on this deployment with the Kearsarge group.

They returned to Camp Lejeune over the weekend.

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