Celebrations welcome sailors home

The party is set — all that’s left is for the honored guests to arrive.

One of the largest Navy homecomings in recent Bremerton history will occur today at 1 p.m., when the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson returns from a six-month deployments to the Arabian Sea.

Last week, a resolution honoring the returning vessels was read on the floor of the state Senate in Olympia.

Officials are expecting thousands of visitors to Bremerton because of the two ships’ high-profile participation in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan.

In downtown Bremerton, hundreds of red, white and blue ribbons decorate trees, light standards — anything that doesn’t move. Larger banners and greetings went up over the weekend.

The U.S. Navy is ready to roll out the red carpet to its ships.

“It is absolutely going to be the most unique event that we will have had here, said Cmdr. Marci Pinkerton, executive officer of Naval Station Bremerton, “when you consider these are two warships that are returning and the missions that they have achieved.”

Naval Station Bremerton officials are expecting tremendous traffic snarls at gates leading into the base.

The Navy is expecting scores of VIPs and media, including teams from CNN-Los Angeles and local news team from ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.

The base will be closed to the public on both return days. Both the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce and the Navy are urging residents to go to the Bremerton Boardwalk to welcome the ships’ return.

Local yacht clubs also plan to hail the Carl Vinson by forming a welcoming gauntlet today.

When the Vinson arrives, it will have cruised 37,172 miles since leaving Bremerton. It is commanded by Capt. Rick Wren.

The supply ship USS Sacramento, commanded by Capt. Dan Cloyd, will have traveled 51,343 miles. Both ships left Bremerton on July 23, 2001.

All that’s left for the party is weather planning.

“I’ll have to talk with our base chaplain about that,” Pinkerton said.

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