MAYPORT, Fla. – Vice President Joe Biden made an unscheduled stop during a visit to Florida on Thursday to greet 350 sailors from the USS Gettysburg as they came home after seven months at sea.

A brass band played and happy families waved flags and held up signs as a grinning Biden helped them welcome home loved ones just in time for the holidays. Seven of the sailors who had babies born while they were at sea were allowed to get off the ship first.


Sophia Perfida, 11 months, waits to see her father.

One sailor dressed up as Santa Claus in honor of the ship’s arrival, drawing thrilled shouts from some of the children waiting for their mothers and fathers.

“This is the greatest thing in the world,” said Captain Robert Hein, commander of the guided-missile cruiser Gettysburg, which had been to Afghanistan, off the Horn of Africa and the Mediterranean during its deployment.

“This is Christmas, New Year’s, the Fourth of July and your birthday all wrapped up in one.”