NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Hundreds of families welcomed the sailors of the USS Ramage home Sunday morning after a nine-month deployment to the 6th Fleet area of operations.
“We’re all in this together as families,” said Matthew Stoner, son of Commanding Officer Dave Stoner, who became a dad six days after the Ramage left. “We missed him… It’s part of Navy life, we just try and keep things going until they get home.”
That meant playing recordings of the commanding officer reading storybooks for now 8-month-old Natalia, his first grandchild. Until Sunday, Jamie and Shea Benitez and their two children have been separated by Chicago, San Diego, Norfolk, Hawaii, and Afghanistan.
“It’s even harder, since I’m also active duty,” said Jamie Benitez. “This is the first time we get to spend time as a family for three years now, so we’re all very excited.”
Benitez and the Stoners say the sacrifice is hard – but on Sunday, that wasn’t what they were thinking about.
“[Natalia] will be meeting her papa for the first time, so we’re very excited about that,” said Cathy Stoner, the commanding officer’s wife. “He’s excited about getting home and being a part of watching her do all of those firsts coming up.”
The first of those firsts was meeting face-to-face on the pier, after months of video chatting and emailed photos.
“I got to finally see her in person, and got a chance to hold her,” said Commanding Officer Dave Stoner. “There are no words. Absolutely no words.”