Most other sailors and Marines had taken their place on board the vessel, but a few couples relished their last loving moments together.
The couple kissed repeatedly and he began to loosen his hand grip and move toward the ship.
“I have to go now,” he told his wife. But again he returns to her and they hug, kiss and hang on for one more moment.
He walks away and she cries.
More than 4,500 sailors and Marines from the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit were bid farewell as they left for the Western Pacific and Middle East.
For families of the USS Harpers Ferry, USS Boxer and the USS New Orleans, it was a emotionally rough morning, but for many it was part of a predictable routine as they bid farewell to their loved ones, some of whom were beginning an ninth deployment.
All family members said deployments don’t get easier with the repeated partings, but they are proud that their loved ones are serving their country.
Family members also said this deployment is a little harder because there loved ones already were gone recently for training exercises.
Bonnie Eastwood said of her granddaughter on the female sailor on her first deployment, “We’re proud, but kind of sad. We are grateful to have a granddaughter who is brave and supporting our country.”
Treva Smith agreed, “I’m very nervous but proud of their service to their country.”
“Everyone should serve their country,” said Smith who served three deployments of her own in the Army.
Asked what they had on their minds this morning, sailors said their families and their safety while they are gone was the biggest concern; otherwise, they were excited about their new journeys.
What will they miss the most in San Diego? Home cooking was mentioned by many.
“The waves,” said Scott Loyden, “and second is beer.” He jokingly lists his girlfriend, C.J. Wessel, almost last, but before his truck.
Others, of course, will miss more significant events such as a baby’s birth, first words and walking for the first time.
But families members look forward to hearing from them when they reach their first port.
The Boxer group consists of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans and amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry.
“The Boxer ARG, 13th MEU team has truly excelled in their preparation for deployment,” said Capt. Keith Moore, commander of Amphibious Squadron One. “The sailors and Marines of the ARG/MEU team are well trained and ready to deploy in support of all missions.”
The sailors and Camp Pendleton-based Marines passed four major training exercises in preparation for heading to sea, the Navy said.
The “Wildcards” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23, based at Naval Air Station North Island, will supply three MH-60S Knighthawks and their crews for the deployment.
The USS Boxer is named after His Majesty’s Brig Boxer, a British vessel captured off the coast of Maine in 1813 during the War of 1812. The USS New Orleans is named after the city in Louisiana and the War of 1812 battle that took place there.
The USS Harpers Ferry is named after a raid by abolitionist John Brown on an arsenal in 1859 in the run up to the Civil War. Many of the raiders were killed, and Brown was convicted and hanged.
The vessels last deployed in August 2013, returning the following April.
— City News Service contributed to this report.
Kisses to Last: 4,500 Boxer Families Say Farewell as Crews Ship Out was last modified: February 13th, 2016 by Chris Stone
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