Share this

MAYPORT, Fla. – On Sunday morning, 330 sailors returned to Naval Station Mayport Sunday when the USS Jason Dunham docked following a nearly seven-month-long deployment.

For seamen Kennedi Bogan-Williams and Steven Leister, the homecoming was a new experience because it was their first deployment.

“It was hard because this is the longest I’ve been away from my family,” Bogan-Williams said, who is from Southern California. “So, it was hard, but it was definitely worth it. I liked the experience, and I would do it again.”

“There were a lot of highs and lows,” said Leister, who is from northern New Jersey. “Definitely more lows than highs at some points, but it was definitely worth it.”

Bogan-Williams’ family flew in from California to welcome her back to the states.

“We’ve been praying for her safety the entire trip,” said Demetria Vaughn, one of Bogan-Williams’ aunts. “For it to come full circle for us, we’re just very proud of her.”

Steven Leister’s loved ones wait for his return after a long deployment. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.)

The moment Leister said goodbye to family at an airport on Dec. 1 was one of the hardest things for everyone.

“With everything going on in the world, you worry about where he is. Is he safe? Is he eating? Is he drinking? Is he getting sleep?,” said Kelli Tromans, Leister’s mother.

“I’m glad that is over,” said Leister’s girlfriend Savannah Smith. “I’m just excited to give him a hug.”

“I just missed the everyday conversations,” said Caitlyn Leister, who is Steven’s older sister. “We are like each other’s rocks.”

The USS Jason Dunham back from several missions in the Middle East and Europe.

Sailors conducted security and stability exercises. They traveled more than 48,000 nautical miles and visited 10 foreign ports in eight different countries along the way.

Commanding officer Michael Kiser says one of the most memorable moments was visiting Rhodes, Greece.

“It is a very ancient and historic city, and U.S. Navy ships do not get an opportunity to pull in there very much,” Kiser said. “Just a confluence of history, nautical traditions all come together there.”

These sailors say they learned a lot about themselves during this deployment.

“Mentally, I became stronger,” said Bogan-Williams. “It was definitely hard being away from everybody and not being able to talk to everyone every day.”

“I am a lot tougher than I think,” Leister said. “A lot more mentally strong than I thought.”

Now, they are thrilled to be back home again.

Share this
You May Also Like

Woman accused of drugging Florida man, stealing $50K worth of items arrested

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WFLA) — The woman accused of drugging a Fort…

Author Salman Rushdie Stabbed in Neck at Event; Condition Unknown – Crime Online

Author Salman Rushdie was reportedly stabbed in the neck while on stage…

Inside Mar-a-Lago: History of the Trump-owned Florida resort

() — When federal agents came calling at the home of Donald…

What led up to the FBI search of Trump’s home?

The saga began in January when 15 boxes of presidential records were…

Anne Heche dead: Ellen DeGeneres reacts after being declared brain dead

Ellen DeGeneres posted a heartfelt message to her ex-girlfriend Anne Heche just…

Isle of Skye: Man, 39, charged with murder and attempted murder and will appear before court

A gunman accused of going on a deadly rampage that left one…

Victims identified in deadly Indiana house explosion

() — The three people killed Wednesday when a house exploded in…

20 seconds of horror: How hundreds of people gasped as they watched masked knifeman leap on stage

Sir Salman Rushdie was undergoing emergency surgery last night and will ‘likely lose…