USS Harry S. Truman Returns Home After Extended Deployment – The Virginian-Pilot
Relatives separated by oceans were able to hold each other for the first time in more than nine months on Monday as the USS Harry S. Truman returned to Naval Station Norfolk after its extended deployment in European waters.
It had been 286 days since the last time the Truman and the more than 5,000 sailors on board were in the United States.
“It’s the greatest relief to see them again,” said Lt. Brandon Cockrum, who was one of the first sailors to disembark the Truman to kiss his wife and hug his children after what he called the ” heartbreak” to have their deployment extended twice.
The extended deployment of the Truman was bound to show the United States’ commitment to its NATO allies in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Captain Gavin Duff.
“Be proud of their resilience and courage, be proud of their strength of character, be proud of their fighting spirit, be proud of the heart they put in each day we were gone, and be proud and grateful for the families who have stood behind us throughout this journey,” Duff said on the dock as a motorcade of sailors in white navy uniforms passed behind him.
Admiral Paul Spedero said the Truman’s mission was “complete” and the carrier and its planes would now go through maintenance to prepare for the next deployment.
The ship was originally scheduled to return in May, but the outbreak of war in February postponed its return indefinitely. This forced Truman’s mission to focus more on “enhanced vigilance activities” and “enhanced air policing” in conjunction with NATO allies, Spedero explained.
“The mission really moved to do everything we could with NATO,” he said.
The effect of that delay was that sailors and their families – some more experienced than others dealing with the uncertainty of military service – missed spending critical times together, from births to birthdays.
James Chesson, 31 A catapult officer or “gunner” on the Truman, which means he’s part of the team that prepares fighter jets for takeoff, met his 4-month-old son Cooper in person for the first time on Monday .
His wife, Adrianne Chesson, said she often spoke of her father to their 2-year-old son, Holmes. Chesson’s sister asked him to record himself reading a book as a gift to Holmes to help him cope with his father’s situation across the Atlantic Ocean.
Once Chesson’s comeback date was on the horizon, the family began a countdown in which Holmes got to eat a turtle-shaped Goldfish cracker each day until the big day.
There were no more turtles after Monday.
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“I have never cried for joy except for today,” said Adrianne Chesson.
The thousands of people gathered on the pier to welcome the Truman House personified the enduring love of those who remain in the United States. Rudy Romero, with an American flag draped over his shoulders, spotted his 20-year-old son Sonny Romero – who hadn’t returned to Texas in more than two years – among the Navy whites lining the deck of the aircraft carrier .
Romero shouted, “I love you my son!” over the anxious crowd before bursting into tears.
“It’s been a long time,” Romero said. “It’s scary, everything about Ukraine and Russia, it’s just – it’s difficult.”
Ken Davis was waiting with a bouquet of sunflowers to welcome home a friend and former teammate, whom he called “Damo.” Davis and Damo were on the USS Saipan, known among the crew as “The Big Deuce”, together from 2005. Davis said they and their military colleagues have remained close over the years , often checking in on family members or watching other people’s dogs.
“Sometimes the best family is the family you choose,” Davis said. “The whole navy is like that.”
Gavin Stone, [email protected]