USS Vella Gulf returns from 8-month deployment

171215-N-VC599-042 NORFOLK (Dec. 15, 2017) Electronics Technician 3rd Class Tyler Hernandez meets his child for the first time following the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf's (CG 72) return to homeport. Vella Gulf departed Norfolk April 23 as an independent deployer to support maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf utilizing their missile defense capability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Wolpert/Released)

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – For families that felt something was missing this Christmas, their ship came in Friday, literally.

More than 300 sailors serving on the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) returned to their homeport at Naval Station Norfolk Friday.

The ship left in April and has been in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operation, which includes the Persian Gulf. This summer, Vella Gulf joined the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Carrier Strike Group for three months, and conducted air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, according to the U.S. Navy.

While deployed, the crew held a change of command ceremony. Capt. Rob Thompson relieved Capt. Mark Oberley as commanding officer.

“I am inspired by Vella Gulf Sailors every single day,” said Thompson. “It was a challenging work-up cycle and a long deployment that saw two unplanned extensions and very few liberty ports. Throughout it all, the crew demonstrated incredible commitment and toughness; it was an honor to sail with them.”

The ship traveled 49,130 nautical miles during its 237-day deployment.

But that time melted away on Friday, especially to father seeing their new babies for the first time.

Some were just overcome with emotion after being away from their families for so long. Others were overcome with excitement.

All in all, there will be a ship load of happy families this Christmas, all courtesy of the U.S. Navy.