'The Best Part Is Coming Home:' 5,000 Sailors Return from 8-Month Deployment on USS George H.W. Bush
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NORFOLK, Virginia - After more than eight months at sea, the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier returned to Naval Station Norfolk this past weekend. CBN News joined the happy homecoming and recorded stories of faith and family.
As the massive aircraft carrier made its way to port, its sailors lined the ship's perimeter as excited family and friends anxiously waited. More than eight months is a long time to be apart, and the reunions reflect that.
"This is our eighth deployment, so she's been through eight deployments, 17 years of marriage, so I would say that it was routine, but it's never routine," shared Capt. Alex Hampton, commander of Carrier Air Wing Seven, after reuniting with his wife.
"It's always a joy to come back and see my family again, especially after eight and a half months," he continued.
"This is amazing. I mean, I haven't seen, I haven't seen this guy in... ever. I mean he was born on deployment, so in the middle of deployment I got to video-chat with my wife, and this is the first time I get to see him," said AC2 Craig Holloway, overcome with emotion.
Rear Adm. Dennis Velez commands the entire Carrier Strike Group Ten.
"I've been doing this for 31 years. This is my 10th deployment, and I just come in here and seeing families, seeing the sailors seeing their families for the first time, it is magical; it is really, it is," Velez said. "The best part of the deployment is coming home."
About 5,000 sailors served on board the USS George H.W. Bush during this latest deployment. They worked with 26 countries, developing relationships with NATO allies and partners in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa area of operations.
"All a part of our effort to reinforce the strong relationship that we have with our NATO allies and to promote peace through strength and strength through unity," Capt. David Pollard, commanding officer of the George H.W. Bush explained.
The strike group also participated in the largest bilateral U.S.-Israeli exercise in history.
"Units from the Army, the Air Force, and United States Navy joined up with Israeli Defense Forces and participated in a multi-domain – so air, maritime, and land – warfare exercises," Velez explained.
Faith also played an important role in this deployment. Lt. Cmdr. Brandon Hood serves as chaplain.
"Usually when our sailors show up to underway chapel services in the foc's'le, we say, 'Welcome to the Great Awakening aboard George Herbert Walker Bush,'" he told CBN News. "It's usually filled to overflowing, and we're very grateful for a rock band and Gospel choir that combine forces every Sunday and just rock out."
"And it's a very alive chapel service," Hood added.
"I absolutely re-dedicated my life to Christ, and I feel so, so good about it," shared MM2 Austin John Kreger.
"I am excited, I don't even know what, like there's no words to explain what it's like to be secretly praying declarations over your husband and for him to email you and say, 'I've accepted Jesus Christ into my heart,'" his wife, Kaitlyn Kreger, said.
"It just, it blew me away. I literally just like fell to my knees and was so excited, just thanking God for it," she continued.
CBN's Helping the Home Front, which partners with local churches to meet the needs of military families, took part in the celebration, along with The Warrior's Journey organization. Among the items handed out by the groups: gift bags, Bibles, and other resources.
"It's such an honor for CBN to have Helping the Home Front, that program, and to be able to reach out to all branches of the military and help families," said Mary Allsbrook of Helping the Home Front.
"We want to support them; they're out there fighting for our freedom, and we want them to know that we are here, right here in town ready to serve them," she continued.
And after a lengthy deployment, it's time now to catch up and soak up the love of family and friends.
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