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USS Carl Vinson returns to SD after burying bin Laden's body at sea

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Seaman Quincy Fermer of the USS Carl Vinson hugs his four-month-old daughter Thiana after seeing her for the first time after disembarking from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson Wednesday, June 15, 2011, in San Diego. Seaman Quincy Fermer of the USS Carl Vinson hugs his four-month-old daughter Thiana after seeing her for the first time after disembarking from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson Wednesday, June 15, 2011, in San Diego.
Navy Petty Officer First Class Mitchell Gallego hugs his two daughters after disembarking from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. Navy Petty Officer First Class Mitchell Gallego hugs his two daughters after disembarking from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
The carrier USS Carl Vinson enters San Diego Bay with its sailors lining the deck as it returns home from a seven month deployment. The carrier USS Carl Vinson enters San Diego Bay with its sailors lining the deck as it returns home from a seven month deployment.

CORONADO, Calif. (AP) — Thousands of sailors aboard the USS Carl Vinson jubilantly returned to their home port Wednesday, four days before Father's Day and nearly seven weeks after the ship carried Osama bin Laden's body to a burial at sea.

Jim Rhoades, who came from Philadelphia to greet his son, held a sign that read: "Mission Accomplished: This Time for Real," a reference to President George W. Bush's 2003 speech at the same location after the invasion of Iraq. The sign featured a photo of bin Laden with red X's over his eyes.

"It just says that these guys have done well," said Rhoades, 50. "They deserve credit."

The USS Carl Vinson was in the North Arabian Sea on May 2 when it received a Navy SEAL team carrying the al-Qaida leader's body. The body was placed in a weighted bag, an officer made religious remarks, and it was dropped into the sea.

Sailors have been ordered to avoid talking about the operation. Rear Adm. Samuel Perez, the Vinson strike group commander, relented only slightly when asked to describe sailors' morale in early May.

"I think everybody was pretty stoked," Perez told reporters. "I think that first week of May everybody was sitting there looking around very proud to have been part of that piece of history."

Several thousand family members and friends cheered and waved American flags and "Welcome Home" signs as the carrier arrived at Naval Base Coronado from its six-month deployment — a far higher turnout than a typical homecoming. There were five live bands, compared to the usual one or two when carriers return.

About 5,000 sailors, pilots and crew members walked off the ship with hundreds of family members who were invited for the final leg from Hawaii. One father hugged his newborn son for the first time.

Security was tight but not unusual. Family and friends were questioned at the gate and walked through metal detectors before approaching the ship.

Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Ray of Lewiston, Maine, was greeted by his wife and two young children, dressed in red, white and blue.

"We were able to go out there and accomplish our mission," he said. "We met or exceeded every goal we were supposed to meet."


This is a story update. A previous story is below.

 

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The USS Carl Vinson returned home Wednesday from a historic deployment that included the burial at sea of terrorist Osama bin Laden, but the aircraft carrier's crew is expected to enjoy only a short rest.

The ship's 6,000 sailors and Marines were greeted by a large crowd along the pier at Naval Air Station North Island.

They'll scatter across all 50 states for what Capt. Bruce Lindsey called "a well-deserved liberty," but he also warned during a conference call with reporters Monday that the next deployment was not far off. He did not share scheduling details.

A Navy spokesman, however, said the Carl Vinson might return to sea by the end of this year.

The captain said America owes his crew a debt of gratitude.

"These sailors are just top-notch, the best of the best," Lindsey said.

Bin Laden's body was flown to the carrier as it sailed in the northern Arabian Sea on May 1, after he was gunned down by Navy SEALs during a raid on his Pakistani hideout. His remains were dumped overboard after they were prepared according to Islamic customs.

The carrier's personnel also stopped acts of piracy against civilian vessels, once on its first day in Middle Eastern waters, and the second time coming on the ship's last day on patrol in the area, according to Lindsey.

"They did some interesting things," Lindsey said of his crew.

Also coming home this week are Carrier Air Wing 17, the cruiser USS Bunker Hill and destroyers USS Gridley and USS Stockdale.

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