Thousands of sailors and Marines based in Jacksonville are looking at months ahead without their families after they shipped out from the Mayport Navy base aboard the U.S.S. Iwo Jima Wednesday.
The crew of the Iwo Jima will spend the next six months at sea off the coasts of Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Joseph O’Brien is the ship’s Captain.
“We spent the past year and a half getting ready, go training, making sure the ship and all the equipment was ready to go, getting all our skills down. Now we get to use them and do good things,” he said.
O’Brien said this is the first deployment for most of his crew.
But for Chief Petty Officer Jason Resendez, it’s his seventh. While he’s away at sea, his wife and their four daughters will carry on at home. It’ll be hard on everyone, he said, which is why the family’s pre-deployment preparations included making some happy memories.
“My wife was nice enough to do all the things I’m going to miss — Easter, my birthday, Valentine’s Day, the Fourth of July — we celebrated all those at the house and took pictures. And I have the pictures in my rack so I can look at them every morning when I wake up,” he said.
Resendez also spent time trying to assure his daughters they’ll be fine during his absence. Eight-year old Olivia wasn’t convinced.
“He always says, ‘Stay strong,’ and he always says, ‘It’ll be by fast, I promise,’” she said. When asked if she thinks she’ll be OK, she responded, “I’m not sure.”
Both the Navy and the Marine Corps provide a wide range of support services to help families manage lengthy deployments.
Editor's Note: This story is part of WJCT’s Beyond the Core project, a listening tour designed to help us get to know the community and to help our audience get to know each other. Beyond the Core stories are based on what we hear at listening sessions. Please visit our Beyond the Core page for more information and to find out whether we’ll be in your neighborhood soon.