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Vinson says bye bye Bremerton

The USS Carl Vinson and its crew have been through a lot during their time in Bremerton, with each departure mourned and each homecoming wildly celebrated.

Thursday the Vinson and its crew pulled out of Naval Base Kitsap into the Rich Passage one last time as it bid Bremerton a fond farewell on its way to California for one last deployment before docking at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Norfolk, Va.

Capt. Kevin Donegan said the ship and its crew have enjoyed a great relationship with the city throughout the ship’s stay in Bremerton.

“It’s sad to be leaving but the good news is that the city has given the same kind of support to the Stennis that we’ve received,” Capt. Donegan said.

The Vinson and its crew have spent more time at sea than anticipated including this upcoming deployment, he said.

“We are always ready to do what we have to do,” he said. “The good news was that we knew our families would be taken care of in a town like Bremerton.”

The Vinson was at sea when the terroristic strikes occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, and instead of enforcing the no-fly zone in Iraq, it helped launch the first airstrikes in Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Vinson remained on station for 72 days before finally returning home on Jan. 23, 2002.

Throughout its eight-year stay in Bremerton, the ship has become a part of the city, he said.

“The ship has watched the town grow, and we will always be here in spirit,” he said.

As a result of the crew’s experiences in the region, many sailors from the Vinson have chosen to do their shore duty in the area and many have also transferred to the Stennis, he said.

“You’ll be seeing a lot of the same faces with different caps, so it’s a win-win situation,” he said.

The sailors who have transferred from the Vinson to the Stennis will play a key role in easing the transition for the new crew, he said.

With the ship headed out to sea, many crew members moved their families to Norfolk during the Christmas holidays and some will make the move at the end of the school year, while others will wait until the deployment ends before moving their families, he said.

“I think people are excited about our deployment because we don’t know what we’re going to be doing, but the only sad part is knowing that we won’t be coming back through the Rich Passage,” Donegan said.

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