Sailors’ families gathered in Mayport on Wednesday to greet the USS Enterprise and 5,000 crew members home from the Middle East after an 8-month deployment.
Measuring more than 1,200 feet long, the USS Enterprise is the longest naval vessel in the world. She's been known affectionately as the "Big E" since her commission in 1961. The ship is now set for permanent idecommission.
Capt. Doug Cochrane, the commanding officer of Naval Station Mayport said, "It's really awe-inspiring. The first international crisis for the USS Enterprise was the Cuban missile crisis which I was too young to know."
The sailors will stay in Jacksonville for a couple of days. Family members will then join the crew on board the historic ship Friday when she embarks on her final voyage home to Norfolk for a decommissioning ceremony.
Cassandra Meshefsky spoke to Action News while awaiting her husband Christopher's return after 8 months at sea. "We're part of history," she said, "We're going to be able to tell our children and grandchildren about this. He feels really privileged to be part of such a great cruise."
"They know it's the end of an incredible era," said Cochrane. "Probably a little bittersweet, no doubt about it. But definitely joy."