USS Lincoln Departs for Washington
CORONADO, Calif. (AP) _ The USS Abraham Lincoln steamed out of San Diego Bay on Saturday for the final leg of its journey home, carrying 3,000 sailors eager to greet parents, family and friends they left nearly a year ago.
The aircraft carrier spent nearly 10 months in the Persian Gulf _ one of the longest deployments of a Navy ship in 30 years _ before docking Friday at North Island Naval Air Station.
About 1,500 sailors got off the ship and were to be bused or flown to their bases. Most of the rest enjoyed a brief liberty, returning by 2 a.m. to prepare the enormous vessel for the journey to its home port of Everett, Wash. The ship is expected to arrive Tuesday.
Supplies also were taken aboard, including 6,000 roses so sailors could have bouquets to present when they dock.
The Lincoln cast off in hazy, drizzly weather, Lt. Heidi Lenzini reported in a telephone call from the flight deck.
The 4.5-acre deck was virtually deserted compared with the scene Friday when hundreds of sailors in spotless white uniforms packed it to greet the dockside crowd of well-wishers. Thousands were on hand a day earlier to greet President Bush when he landed on the Lincoln to thank sailors and deliver a televised address.
``People are just focused,″ Lenzini said. ``This is the last thing that they’ll have to deal with. They’re all ready to go home.″
Airman Nathan Sotello, 20, of Midland, Texas, said he didn’t resent seeing friends leave the ship Friday while he remained aboard.
``Even though my family wasn’t there, it felt good to see everybody happy and smiling,″ he said. ``I saw my friends on TV, and it felt like my mom was there.″
Sotello, a firefighter, said he planned to greet his mother, Viola Prado, in Washington.
``She has her bags packed already. She’s had them packed for about a week,″ he said. He intends to meet his mother on the dock, then will drive with her to Texas.
One seaman said he looked forward to greeting a 7-month-old daughter he’s never seen.
``It’s like going home for a big Christmas gift,″ he told CNN. ``She’s crawling now, and she’s teething ... all these wonderful things that I’m not there to see. But I will be there soon, so, hopefully, I get to enjoy the rest of her life.″