NORFOLK, Va. — It’s a tough goodbye for many military families as thousands of service members from Hampton Roads and North Carolina are leaving a months-long deployment Monday.
The deployment involves 4,000 Navy Sailors and Marines that are a part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan and the amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde are leaving from Naval Station Norfolk, while the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall is departing from JEB Little Creek.
“I’m excited for him," said Kim Keck as she waved at her son on USS Bataan. "I’m very proud of him. I’m a little bit worried because I’m the mom.”
While Keck says she's prepared for this day, it’s still hard to say goodbye. She couldn’t send her son off for his first deployment without some motherly advice.
“I keep telling him to stay away from the edges of the ship," she said. "He keeps telling me, ‘Mom, my whole job is on the edges of the ship.’”
Many hugged their loved ones tight at Naval Station Norfolk before they boarded USS Bataan. Miranda Watts said this will be the longest time her husband will be away from her and their children.
“With the one person that you want to be with is gone, it’s just very, just a little challenging,” Watts said.
Cpt. Martin Robertson, the commander of Amphibious Squadron 8, said the partnership with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit will make them "a more capable force to deter aggression and demonstrate commitment to our partners."
Robertson said over the past year, Sailors and Marines have trained in preparation for deployment, allowing them to better collaborate while at sea.
“For example, doing flight deck operations…conducting ship-to-shore operations,” he said.
As families wave goodbye, they’re hoping to make this time fly.
“Just try to keep tabs on them and sending them pictures and staying in contact," Keck said. "And reminding them how absolutely proud we are.”