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USS Newport News returns to Norfolk after a six month deployment

USS Newport News returns to Norfolk after a six month deployment
By Courtney Mabeus
The Virginian-Pilot
Jun 10, 2016

Brittany Shimer’s attempt for that classic Audrey Hepburn look paid off.

When Petty Officer 2nd Class John Shimer stepped off the submarine USS Newport News on Friday, he enveloped his wife, giving her not one, but two passionate kisses.

The couple scored the coveted first kiss that marks the return of a Navy vessel to its homeport. After being separated by a six-month deployment, the Shimers appeared ready not only to earn it, but intent on making the moment last as long as they could.

“Well, I do look fantastic,” Brittany Shimer said moments later, holding the rose her husband handed her. She wore a timeless navy-colored dress she ordered for the occasion from a vintage-style website.

Shimer was one of a little more than 150 sailors aboard the Newport News who returned to Norfolk Naval Station. Anticipation built along the pier as families gathered to welcome home the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine.

Families cheered when the boat finally appeared, holding up cellphone cameras en masse to capture the moment.

As she waited for her son, Petty Officer 3rd Class William Hon, Kim Hon said she felt “a bit of everything” including “just all-around proud.”

“I can’t wait to hold him and squeeze him,” said Hon, of Wilkes Barre, Pa. “He tells me he’s OK, but I need to see he’s OK.”

Cmdr. Patrick Clark, commanding officer of the submarine, said the Newport News traveled more than 40,000 nautical miles and supported the Navy’s efforts in the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf. All that travel helped helped boost morale among the sailors, most of whom were deploying for the first time, Clark said.
“We went as far as above the Arctic Circle and south of the equator,” Clark said. “It’s very rare for a deployment to do that in one deployment.”

Those line crossings earned the crew two special ceremonies to mark the occasions, which will become “lifelong memories for them,” Clark said.

The crew also went for a span of 70 days without being able to communicate with loved ones. The boat’s leadership motivated the sailors during that time by “letting them know that what we’re doing is bigger than ourselves,” Clark said.

“They want to be a part of that and knowing that for those 70 days we’re supporting, you know, the interests of national security – they get behind that,” Clark said.

The boat made port visits in Norway, the United Kingdom and the Greek island of Crete, which were different from those initially planned and provided “a little excitement for us,” Clark said.

After spending six months at sea, Clark said, he’s looking forward to mountain biking.

Five-year-old Cheyanna Williams ran down the dock to meet her grandfather, Chief Petty Officer Travis Winchester. Minutes earlier, Cheyanna, who was dressed as a sailor, told her grandmother, Monica Winchester, she wanted to give her grandfather the first hug.

Monica Winchester visited her husband during a port visit in Gibraltar. Now that he’s home, she’d planned a surprise for him by having his Ford F-150 pickup detailed.

With 17 years of service behind him, Travis Winchester said he was ready to be home.

“When you’re young, it’s really easy to be excited,” he said. “You’re going to do neat things and see the world.”

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