updated 3/5/2005 3:59:13 AM ET 2005-03-05T08:59:13

The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln returned to its home port Friday after a five-month voyage that included serving as the hub of a relief operation to help victims of the tsunami.

Hundreds of family members and friends of the crew turned out to watch as the Lincoln sailed into port, bringing with it more than 3,000 sailors.

“I’m excited. I haven’t been able to sleep in days,” said Fran Caruthers, a teacher from El Dorado, Ark., awaiting her son, Trey, a seaman apprentice. He was in Hong Kong with the ship when the Dec. 26 tsunami struck in south Asia.

Caruthers kept in touch through e-mail, learning that he went ashore when the carrier arrived in January in Indonesia.

“He did go on the beach. He said it was a sobering experience, seeing all the bodies, but he didn’t dwell on it,” she said.

The carrier left in mid-October for a four-month deployment in the western Pacific. In December, the Navy diverted the vessel to south Asia, where the Lincoln and its air wing were the hub of a relief operation to help tsunami victims.

Helicopters from the Lincoln flew hundreds of missions to deliver food, water and other aid along the devastated west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Machinist’s mate Chad Gorski said he worked with the ship’s engineering department making fresh water to bottle and give to victims. “A lot of us are very proud to have contributed in any way we could,” he said.

Medical corpsman Karran Harvey went ashore and visited many of the devastated villages. On Friday, he cradled his 4-month-old son, a somber expression crossing his face as he described seeing villagers living in mud and sewage.

“It was very moving. You don’t know how good you have it here,” he said.

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