Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to more than 600 Sailors, friends and families during a homecoming celebration for USS Gettysburg (CG-64) Dec. 8.
The guided-missile cruiser returned to Naval Station Mayport after a successful seven-month deployment to the Mediterranean and Arabian Seas.
Biden spoke with family members and friends on the pier before boarding Gettysburg to shake the hands of Sailors going ashore to their loved ones.
“They’ve missed weddings. They have missed funerals. They have missed holidays,” Biden said. “And let me tell you, you’ve missed it with them.”
The vice president also extended his thanks to all people serving in the military at home and abroad.
“Only one percent of the entire population in the military are fighting these wars,” said Biden. “One hundred percent of the population owes you thanks and I mean that sincerely. You are an incredible bunch of folks.”
Gettysburg’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Robert Hein, stood at the quarterdeck alongside the vice president said how thrilled he is to be home.
“This is the greatest thing in the world,” said Hein. “This is Christmas, New Year’s, the Fourth of July and your birthday all wrapped up in one.”
Biden also spoke about the seven new dads on board who finally had the chance to see their newborns for the first time.
“There are seven of you in here that are going out to meet their child for the first time,” Biden said. “I’ve spoken to each one of them. They’re brilliant. They all said the same thing, ‘beat Army Saturday.'”
One of the dads never expected the amount of joy he would receive this homecoming day.
“It’s actually the greatest thing I’ve ever felt,” said Quartermaster 3rd Class Marcellous McGee. “Just coming off a seven-month deployment, got my newborn, never seen him before, so it’s a great feeling.”
The strike group conducted close-air-support missions in conjunction with ground operations in Afghanistan, maritime patrol and power projection in the Arabian Gulf and counter piracy off the Horn of Africa.
Gettysburg deployed with the USS George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group supporting operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn along with theater and maritime security cooperation efforts in the Mediterranean and Arabian Seas.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome home.” Biden said. “You did a great job. We’re proud of you and Merry Christmas.”
Naval Today Staff, December 09, 2011; Image: navy