The USS Minnesota returned to Groton after six months Friday, bringing 131 sailors and 18 officers home to their loved ones.
“I just feel really fuzzy inside,” said Athena Evans, an 8-year-old from Pennsylvania waiting for her uncle to get off the submarine.
A sea of excitement greeted the sailors. Families traveled from all over, including one family from Bahrain, to give hugs and retrieve their family members just in time for the holidays.
“We were here the day before he left and I hugged him goodbye and I did not know if I would be able to survive this, but I did,” said Eileen Hass, from Long Island. Hass was waiting for her son.
Everyone who was gathered at Naval Submarine Base, New London had a unique reunion story.
Breanna Blattenberg waited to see her husband with their two young daughters. It was her third deployment and she said that the six months apart do not get easier.
“We miss him,” said Blattenberg, fighting back tears.
For the first time, Blattenberg’s family won the “first hug.” Her husband, Zachary, was one of the first sailors to walk off the boat. Their family was the first family to hug.
“Pure joy,” said Blattenberg. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for six months.”
The USS Minnesota and its crew sailed more than 36,000 nautical miles since the start of their June deployment. Blattenberg and several other Sailors told NBC Connecticut that they are thankful to be home and are looking forward to some time off.
“Savour the time you have. Enjoy the time you have with your loved ones,” said Blattenberg. “I would say that is probably the most important right there.”