USS Higgins returns after 9-month deployment

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SAN DIEGO — A San Diego-based guided-missile destroyer that served with the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Western Pacific and Middle East returned home Monday morning following a lengthy deployment.

The USS Higgins and its crew of 250 arrived in San Diego Bay shortly after 8:30 a.m. and tied up at Naval Station San Diego about 30 minutes later.

USS Higgins

USS Higgins in San Diego Bay (Source: U.S. Navy)

The Higgins left Jan. 14 and, according to the Navy, conducted several exercises and theater security operations while at sea. The vessel also made port call in Palau, Singapore, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Japan, Guam and Pearl Harbor.

“I am continually grateful for the effort my crew displayed this deployment,” Cmdr. Nicole L. M. Shue, the Higgins’ skipper, said before the ship’s return. “The dedication and professionalism they put forth daily reaffirms their commitment to their country and the naval service. They have worked incredibly hard, and we are looking forward to reuniting with our loved ones back here in San Diego.”

During a port visit to Nagoya, Japan, Higgins’ sailors helped clean the grounds at a local orphanage, the Navy said. While in Thailand, several sailors helped rebuild a school damaged by a tropical storm.

The sailors also hosted midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy and students from other universities as part of a summer training program.

The ship is named in honor of Marine Col. William R. Higgins, who was captured in Southern Lebanon by Hezbollah militants on Feb. 17, 1988, while serving as chief of Observer Group Lebanon as part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission.

His captors held the 45-year-old Higgins hostage, tortured him and eventually killed him, releasing a videotape a year-and-a-half after his abduction showing him hanging by the neck. His remains were found on a Beirut Street on Dec. 23, 1991, and interred at Quantico National Cemetery seven days later.

The warship named after Higgins was christened by his widow, Robin, on Oct. 4 1997, and commissioned on April 24, 1999.

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