USS Constellation Arrives Home After War
CORONADO, Calif. (AP) _ Sailors aboard the USS Constellation unfurled large ``thank you″ banners as the aircraft carrier returned home Monday from Iraq on its final mission before decommissioning.
The ship was greeted at North Island Naval Air Station by thousands of relatives and friends shouting ``welcome home″ to the 5,000 sailors who had spent seven months at sea.
Sailor Matt Acacio, 25, among the first to make it down the gangway, met his 5-month-old daughter, Jazlien, for the first time. His eyes brimmed with tears.
``I’m glad she’s not crying. That’s what I was most worried about,″ said Acacio, who was among more than 100 sailors greeting their infant children for the first time.
The Constellation left San Diego Bay on Nov. 2 and supported operations in Afghanistan before the ship’s air wing was called in to attack targets in Iraq.
Constellation’s planes flew more than 1,500 missions and dropped more than 1.2 million pounds of ordnance, according to the Navy.
``It was historic. Young men and women doing extremely challenging things every day,″ said Rear Adm. Barry Costello, who commanded the Constellation’s six-ship battle group.
Cheryl Reister of Henderson, Nev., was there to greet her son Robert Postelwait, 21, and ``get his feet back on U.S. soil.″
``I’m anxious to get him home,″ she said.
In August, the Constellation will be decommissioned, with the new, $4.5 billion USS Ronald Reagan taking its place next year.
``It’s very emotional. I spent two years of my life on this ship. Since I got off the ship I’ve always considered it a home,″ said Cmdr. Dave Koontz, a Navy spokesman who was once a Constellation sailor and was dockside to welcome the 41-year-old ship home for the last time.
On the Net:
USS Constellation: www.navy.mil/homepages/cv64