American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – Alongside hundreds of military family members and friends, Vice President Joe Biden today welcomed about 350 sailors home as the USS Gettysburg returned to Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Fla., after a seven-month deployment.
"You did a great job,” Biden told the sailors. “We're proud of you." The vice president personally thanked each sailor, shook hands, and handed out vice presidential coins to everyone on the ship.
The guided missile cruiser and its crew were deployed with the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group. While deployed, the strike group supported military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with maritime security operations in the Mediterranean and Arabian seas.
Hundreds of family members and friends turned out to welcome the sailors home. Some held up homemade welcome home signs and others danced to the beat of a New Orleans-style jazz band to keep warm as they waited in the chilly weather.
The vice president greeted the sailors’ family and friends, and also thanked them for their sacrifice and service. "It's an honor to be with you today to welcome home your sailors," Biden said.
"They've missed weddings. They have missed funerals. They have missed holidays," he added. "And let me tell you, you've missed it with them."
Seven sailors would be meeting their new infants for the first time today, the vice president noted. "I've spoken to each one of them,” he said. “They're brilliant.
“They all said the same thing: Beat Army Saturday," joked Biden, referring to the fierce rivalry between the Army Black Knights and the Navy Midshipmen, who will square off Dec. 10 on FedEx Field here.
Biden kept his remarks brief. He said he understands from personal experience not to stand in the way of a family reunion. He recalled when his son, Army Maj. Beau Biden of the Delaware Army National Guard, would return home after a military-related absence.
"I learned early, early on, if anyone got -- no matter who it was, the president, the Lord almighty -- got between his mother and him or his wife and him as he was getting off that bus and on a ship, they would have been trampled,” Biden said. “I promise I'm not going to get between you and that ship coming in here."
Also sailing into Mayport was the USS George H.W. Bush, which was on its first deployment since being commissioned. Nearly 6,000 sailors aboard the carrier strike group’s ships, including the George H.W. Bush, are scheduled to return to their homeport in Norfolk, Va., Dec. 10.
Navy Rear Admiral Nora Tyson, the commander of the carrier strike group, joined Biden in thanking each sailor who exited the Gettysburg.