USS Leyte Gulf deploys for seven months

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY/AP) — The crew of the USS Leyte Gulf left from Naval Station Norfolk Wednesday for a seven-month deployment around Europe.

The guided-missile cruiser is headed out to the Navy’s Sixth Fleet area of responsibility, which includes the Mediterranean Sea. Families lined pier side for the farewell told 10 On Your Side the goodbyes are never easy when loved ones are headed so far away.

“It’s emotional. Travis Hardman is my nephew,” said Alisha Hollowell. “He is my sister’s son, and he just got here about a month ago. He’s having to leave his family again. It’s a little bit emotional.”

Photos: USS Leyte Gulf deploys

The deployment is especially hard for Sailors leaving children behind. Henry Marshall’s wife is headed out for her first deployment in seven years.

“It’s a little bittersweet for me, because I retired from the Navy,” Henry Marshall said. “This is her first deployment since we’ve both been married and us having the kids.”

Babies, like Charlotte Rose, won’t get to see their parents for seven months. And fathers will miss out on a lot of first moments.

“Obviously, there is nothing easy about it,” said Lauren Morrow, whose husband is deploying. “It’s something he has to do, so I stand behind him and offer him my full support.”

Commanding Officer Dean Rawls said during the deployment USS Leyte Gulf and a helicopter anti-submarine squadron will join with forces from around the world in support of NATO maritime security operations.

“We’ve trained in all wartime areas and trained for contingencies,” Rawls said. “We will continue to train. In fact, we will be training as soon as we leave the pier. We’ll continue that training to be ready for anything that comes our way.”

The cruiser is the oldest one of its kind on the East Coast. Also, the U.S.S Leyte Gulf’s namesake is the Battle of the Leyte Gulf. The body of water in the Philippines where the U.S defeated the Japanese Navy In October of 1944.

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