Duval County

‘Bittersweet’ goodbye as hundreds of Navy sailors set out to sea

MAYPORT — Tuesday marked a bittersweet goodbye for many families as nearly 300 Navy sailors went out to sea aboard USS The Sullivans for a three-month deployment from Naval Station Mayport.

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This is their third deployment this year.

“They’re prepared. They know that this is what we do. This is what the Navy does,” emphasized Command Master Chief Jacelyne Augustin. “We’re meant to be on sea.”

Its mission and location are confidential, but Action News Jax was there back in April when USS The Sullivans had returned from another three-month deployment after navigating 20,000 nautical miles around the world to provide air and missile defense for all NATO forces.

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LaTonia Harrell was among those eagerly waiting to see her husband.

“What makes it worthwhile for you?” asked Action News Jax reporter Jessica Barreto. He leaned over and kissed LaTonia before smiling and responding, “My wife.”

“It feels real good, real good to be home with my wife, my daughter,” he exclaimed.

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On Tuesday, she had to tell him goodbye.

“It’s bittersweet,” Harrell said as she began to get choked up. “We understand he signed up for this mission so when duty calls, he has to go. But it never feels good, you know, being away from him. No matter how many times you do it.”

“I’m gonna be sad because we’re gonna miss the holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, his birthday, my mom’s birthday,” said daughter LaTonia Harrell. “We’re gonna miss him a lot.”

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But mother LaTonia says prayers will get her through it.

“We’ll be praying for the whole team out there,” she said. “We love you and we appreciate what you do for your families.”

“Continue to pray for us and we love you all and we’ll see you in a few months,” Augustin added.

“Starting today, we’re counting down,” LaTonia noted. “We’re already planning, what kinda signs are we gonna have when they return?”