Norfolk, Va. - It was hard to tell who was happier, the sailors of the USS Eisenhower or their families who crowded the pier at Naval Station Norfolk to welcome them back.
Just one day before the 4th of July, the Ike is home.
Between the signs and the cheers, there were also some tears – happy ones – from couples like Heidi Evick and Benjamin Mcabe who got engaged
There were also tears of joy as couples embraced and shared that first kiss they’ve longed for since February.
While the ship was gone for just over four months, those 132 nights must’ve felt like an eternity for the men who became fathers while at sea thousands of miles away. Today they got to meet their sons and daughters for the very first time.
All together these sailors have been deployed for about 11 of the past 13 months and they are very glad to be home.
Timelapse: The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower returns to Naval Station Norfolk
Military greetings: Loved ones welcome home their sailors
Photos: USS Eisenhower returns to Hampton Roads
Photos: The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on deployment
‘Rawhides’ return to Naval Station Norfolk
Carrier Air Wing 7 returns after Ike deployment
The 36-year-old aircraft carrier briefly returned to Norfolk over the holidays to have its flight deck resurfaced before returning to deployment supporting forces in Afghanistan with the 5th fleet.
The ship flew 2,200 combat sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom over the split deployment.
The carrier was the Battenberg Cup recipient as the finest ship in the Atlantic Fleet for 2012.