USS Thomas Hudner sailors return home after months-long deployment

MAYPORT, Fla. — It was an exciting and emotional day for friends and family at Naval Station Mayport. The USS Thomas Hudner returned home on Saturday after a six-month deployment.

“I’m really nervous actually. This is our first deployment so I’m kind of a newbie at all of this stuff,” Sarah Scharf, who was waiting for her husband aboard the ship, said.

The reunion is seven months in the making. Although sailors were technically deployed for six months, loved ones say they were gone for longer.

Signs in hand and smiles on deck, friends and family were already making plans for the weekend.

“I’m going to cook a nice dinner and we’re going to be able to just relax at our house and you know try to sort everything out. Deployments are really hard so we’re going to try to re-communicate and just be together,” Scharf said.

Others had plans of their own as well.

“I got him a new grill for his birthday because he wasn’t home for his birthday so he wants to grill today. So that’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to grill and probably go to the pool,” Alyssa Roethle, who was awaiting her husband’s arrival, said.

Some family members came home to additional little ones physically at the port and others making their debut in a few more months.

“We did IVF in January when he was deployed so this is his first time seeing me pregnant,” Roethle said.

When that big moment arrived, loved ones delivered on their promises.

One by one, there were smiles, laughter, and tears.

“I think it’s a feeling that you can’t really describe to anybody else unless they have actually experienced it,” USS Thomas Hudner Commanding Officer Commander Bo Mancuso said.

While deployed, the crew performed counter-narcotics and counter-smuggling operations, including recovering weapons that support violent extremist organizations such as ISIS.