The USS Indiana returned to its homeport at Naval Submarine Base, New London in Groton Friday after spending six months at sea.
The crew departed during the very early stages of the pandemic. When the crew members left for deployment, masks were not a requirement in Connecticut.
“Nothing was like this," said Destinee Davis, as she waited for her fiance. "There was plenty of toilet paper, plenty of food, plenty of cleaning supplies."
"They come back to a different world," said Sophath Simonds, wife of the chief of the boat.
There were 74 families at the Naval Submarine Base, New London Friday to greet their loved ones. The homecoming ceremony was different than in the past due to pandemic restrictions.
Instead of crowding the pier, waiting for their sailor, families were asked to stay in their cars. Each family had an assigned parking spot, socially distanced from others, and the sailors were given a map to find their family.
"We have taken a good head count to ensure that we do COVID-19 safety checks prior to them coming on to lower base," said Command Master Chief Joshua Sturgill. "It is very tough. It is very difficult, but it is critically important that we keep homecoming going because it is very difficult what we ask our sailors to do and it is even more difficult what we ask our families to do."
Even with the COVID-19 restrictions in place, the sailors say the homecoming was meaningful.
“Emotional. Very emotional. Crying. It has been a long time. It has been a tough deployment," said Charles Simonds, Chief of the Boat. "It is good to be back."
“Appreciate the time you have," added Chief Derek Warren. "Don’t take the little things for granted.”