USS Reuben James returns home for the last time

By Cam Tran
Published On: May 03 2013 05:49:04 PM HST
Updated On: May 03 2013 06:40:22 PM HST

Excited loved ones greeted 200 Hawaii based sailors as they returned from a seven-month deployment in Asia. Today's homecoming also marked the end of an era for a historic naval ship.

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii -

Anxious families and blaring horns greeted the USS Reuben James as it pulled into Pearl Harbor Friday.

"We are excited, so excited to see him.  It hasn't hit me yet, but once I see him, it will hit me," said Toni Leugers.  "I was like, I just want to hug him!"

More than 200 members of the USS Reuben James spend seven months deployed in Southeast Asia.

"We had a variety of missions overseas, the latest one being a fishery patrol.  Protect the fisheries down by the equator on patrol with the Coast Guard," said Cmdr. Daniel Valascho.

Hugs and kisses welcomed each sailor as they set foot on land.

Families showed their aloha by making each crew member a lei and even a giant 65-foot-long lei for the ship.

What makes this homecoming even more special for these sailors is this ship will be decommissioned come this August.

"After 27 years, she's done her time and it's time to put her away," said Cmdr. Valascho.

KITV reporter Cam Tran asked," How does feel to be the final commanding officer?"

Valascho responded, "Quite an honor.  I feel blessed everyday because of it."

The Navy is retiring the large 483-foot-long ship with a newer and smaller fleet.  During its 27 years of service, the Navy frigate completed missions for Operation Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

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