USS Mason changes homeport to Naval Station Mayport, brings 300 sailors to Jacksonville

MAYPORT — After more than a month at sea, the USS Mason (DDG 87) has arrived from Norfolk, Virginia.

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“Every minute we’ve been out at sea we’ve been training,” said Commander Stephen M. Valerio, the commanding officer for USS Mason.

This Arleigh Burke-Class destroyer, first launched in 2001, is named in honor of the non-segregated crew serving on board USS Mason (DE-529).

“[USS Mason (DE-529)] was the first U.S. Navy destroyer that was crewed by an African American group in World War II and so we embrace heritage and our crew is very diverse in all aspects,” Valerio emphasized.

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This is now the third U.S. Navy warship with the name USS Mason. Starting Monday, it will be stationed at Naval Station Mayport as part of a scheduled homeport change.

“It’s a big change,” Valerio said.

This is the first time the USS Mason has changed its homeport since it launched. The families of the sailors on board eagerly waited for them to step off the ship, and start their new chapters here.

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“Happy as I’ve ever been,” said Hanna Edenfield, the wife of U.S. Navy Fire Controlman (FC3) William Edenfield.

“It feels a lot longer than it really was, and it feels good to be home,” William said.

“It’s an amazing feeling after not seeing her for about two to two and a half months, being in Virginia for so long,” said U.S. Navy Information Technologist (E3, ITSN) Alexzander Searles as he held his baby daughter. “She’s a lot bigger than I last remember her.”

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For some, it was all too familiar.

“I grew up here so it’s definitely coming back home for me,” Earles said.

“I started my officer career out of Mayport and I’m a graduate from UNV and I did my first two ships, and now I’m bringing my ship that I command back to Mayport,” Valerio pointed out. “And so it’s very meaningful to me.”

The ship’s crew hope to set an example, and find ways to give back and make an impact.

“I expect my crew, my ship to be fully involved in the community,” Valerio pointed out.

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And in just nine days, they’ll be shipping off once again.

“A lot of getting ready, getting the ship ready for deployment,” Searles explained.

But not before cherishing this time with loved ones.

“Helps the mental state of my sailors and keeps them ready for the fight,” Valerio emphasized.