Image: USS Carl Vinson pulls into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
Audrey Mcavoy  /  AP
The USS Carl Vinson pulls into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Tuesday, making its first stop on U.S. soil since burying Osama bin Laden at sea last month. The massive carrier and its 5,500 sailors, pilots and crew were returning home from their deployment to the Middle East and Asia that began Nov. 30. It spent 171 of 191 days at sea and sailed more than 52,340 nautical miles.
By
updated 6/8/2011 6:16:15 AM ET 2011-06-08T10:16:15

More than 100 supporters greeted the USS Carl Vinson as it returned from a deployment that became historic last month when the aircraft carrier picked up a team of Navy SEALs carrying the body of Osama bin Laden and buried the terror leader at sea.

The ship arrived in Hawaii on Tuesday, making its first stop on U.S. soil since its six-month deployment to waters in and around the Middle East and the Western Pacific. The Vinson is making a three-day stop in Pearl Harbor before heading home to San Diego — where it is expected to be met with a much larger greeting.

There had not been much fanfare preceding the ship's arrival. The media was alerted only a day before the Vinson pulled into port. And Navy officials advised reporters that senior officers wouldn't talk much about bin Laden or disclose new details of the burial.

"Our crew has taken it with the solemnity that was required and they conducted that mission in a manner that I think brings pride and credit to the United States," said Rear Adm. Samuel Perez, who commands the Navy team of ships and aircraft that the Vinson leads.

The Vinson was in the North Arabian Sea in early May when it received a Navy SEAL team carrying the body of the mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Video: Bin Laden buried at sea (on this page)

Pentagon officials speaking about the burial have said that bin Laden's body was placed in a weighted bag on the carrier and that an officer made religious remarks before the remains were put on a board and tipped into the sea.

Perez said the burial symbolized different things for each sailor.

"For some, it's just another mission. For others that had more personal ties to Sept. 11, I think it had a deeper meaning," he said. "That's just something that each of us has to wrap our arms around individually."

'A privilege they chose us'
Perez said he was at the Pentagon when it was attacked, making this deployment an interesting bookend to his career.

"It's a privilege they chose us for that mission," he said. "It's just something special. I will remember it for a long time."

Most sailors were reluctant to talk about the ship's connection to the world's most wanted terrorist. But others expressed appreciation for the role their deployment played in U.S. history.

"I can honestly say I'm proud of that. I am proud of that," said Chief Petty Officer Michael Norman, of Chicago, who was on his last deployment and is retiring next year after 20 years in the Navy.

Story: US shows off warship that buried bin Laden

Under a light drizzle, the sailors were warmly greeted by friends and family with applause, colorful leis, hugs and tears as they disembarked from the ship.

"It's a big relief they're home. We get to see them. We actually get to hold them and make sure that they're all right. We get to physically see that they're OK," said Judy Crow, who was anxiously awaiting her husband Petty Officer 1st Class Vincent Crow, of Cleburne, Texas.

Several Navy wives including Crow said they were so proud of their husbands, but the bin Laden burial also had them shaken, fearing the ship would be a possible target for terrorists.

"When I first heard about it, I was pretty scared because terrorists are known for retaliation," she said. "A lot of families were worried."

Slideshow: After the raid: Inside bin Laden's compound (on this page)

The massive carrier, nearly four football fields long with a flight deck spanning 4.5 acres, and its 5,500 sailors, pilots and crew were returning home from their deployment to the Middle East and Asia that began Nov. 30. It also conducted exercises with South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Britain, France and Australia in addition to responding to two piracy attempts on civilian vessels.

The carrier hosted numerous visitors from Philippines President Philippines Benigno Aquino III to the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.

The ship is expected to leave Pearl Harbor on Friday. It typically takes three days to sail to San Diego from Hawaii, but the Navy hasn't disclosed details of the arrival.

There is expected to be a larger greeting when it returns to its home port in San Diego.

The USS Carl Vinson is named after the Georgia congressman who died in 1981.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: CIA team spends hours in bin Laden compound

Photos: The compound

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  1. Pakistani boys while demolition takes place on the compound where Osama bin Laden was slain in 2011 in the northwestern town of Abbottabad on Feb. 26, 2012.

    More photos from Abbottabad one year after Osama bin Laden (Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. An aerial view shows the residential area of Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was found and killed by U.S. commandos. (Asif Hassan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A general view of the town of Abbottabad, May 6. Bin Laden was living in a large house close to a military academy in this garrison town, a two-and-a-half hour-drive from the capital, Islamabad. (Khaqan Khawer / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamaat-e-Islami rally to condemn the killing of bin Laden, in Abbottabad on May 6. (Aqeel Ahmed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A Pakistani woman photographs her daughter on May , at a gate of the compound where bin Laden was caught and killed. (Aqeel Ahmed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. School girls pass by armed Pakistani policemen guarding the sealed entrance to the compound in Abbottabad, May 5, in which bin Laden had been living. (MD Nadeem / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Part of a damaged helicopter rests in the compound after U.S. Navy SEAL commandos killed bin Laden, May 2, in a photo made available on May 4. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Boys herd sheep past the compound where U.S. Navy SEAL commandos killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad May 5. (Akhtar Soomro / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pakistani security officials arrive at the Osama bin Laden compound in Abbottabad on Wednesday, May 4. (Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Local residents gather outside a burned section of bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad. (Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A Pakistani police officer gestures at a checkpoint along a road leading to a house where bin Laden was captured and killed in Abbottabad. Area residents were still confused and suspicious about bin Laden's death, which took place before dawn on Monday. (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Pakistani children look out from a high vantage point at bin Laden's compound on Tuesday, May 3. (Aqeel Ahmed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Pakistan army troops remove canvas screens from outside the compound's house. (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Neighbors and news media gather around the compound, right, after authorities ease security around the property. (Aqeel Ahmed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A satellite image, taken June 15, 2005, shows the Abbottabad compound, center, where bin Laden was killed in on Monday. (DigitalGlobe via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A Pakistani soldier secures the compound. (T. Mughal / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. The compound is seen in flames after it was attacked early May 2 in this still image taken from cellphone video footage. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Part of a damaged U.S. MH-60 helicopter lies the compound. The helicopter was destroyed by U.S. forces after a mechanical failure left it unable to take off. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A still image from video obtained by ABC News shows blood stains in the interior of the house where bin Laden was killed. (ABC News via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Aerial views released by the Department of Defense show the area in Abbottabad in 2004, left, before the house was built, and in 2011, right. (Department of Defense via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A graphic released by the Department of Defense shows the compound where bin Laden was killed. (Department of Defense via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Pakistani soldiers and police officers patrol near the house, background, where bin Laden had lived. (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. The hideout of bin Laden is seen the day after his death. (Farooq Naeem / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Students look toward the compound from a nearby religious school in Abbottabad. (Faisal Mahmood / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Pakistani security officials survey the walls of the compound where bin Laden was killed. The outer walls were between 10 and 18 feet high. (MD Nadeem / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Pakistani soldiers stand guard near the compound May 2. (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Boys collect pieces of metal from a wheat field outside bin Laden's house, seen in the background, on May 3. People showed off small parts of what appeared to be a U.S. helicopter that the U.S. says malfunctioned and was blown up by the American team as it retreated. (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Pakistani security officials stand guard at the main entrance to the compound on May 3. (MD Nadeem / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. An image from video seized from the walled compound of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, and released by the U.S. Department of Defense, shows Osama bin Laden watching TV. He is said to have spent his last weeks in a house divided, amid wives riven by suspicions. On the top floor, sharing his bedroom, was his youngest wife and favorite. The trouble came when his eldest wife showed up and moved into the bedroom on the floor below. (Department of Defense via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
    Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (29) After the raid: Inside bin Laden's compound - The compound
  2. Image:
    Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (81) After the raid: Inside bin Laden's compound - World reaction
  3. Image:
    Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (81) World reacts to death of Osama bin Laden - World reaction
  4. Image:
    Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (29) World reacts to death of Osama bin Laden - The compound

Timeline: A timeline of Osama bin Laden's life

Considered enemy No. 1 by the U.S., the Saudi millionaire is the perpetrator behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Click on key dates to learn more about the founder of al-Qaida, an international terror network.

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