Philadelphia's story nears final chapter

Lt. Joseph DeCicco places his cap on the head of his son, Noah, 4 months old, during their first meeting at the homecoming for the USS Philadelphia Wednesday at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton. In the background is Lt. DeCicco's wife, Kristen DeCicco of Groton, and his father-in-law, Rick Holloway of Waterford. The Philadelphia returned from its final deployment and is expected to be decommissioned later this year.
Lt. Joseph DeCicco places his cap on the head of his son, Noah, 4 months old, during their first meeting at the homecoming for the USS Philadelphia Wednesday at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton. In the background is Lt. DeCicco's wife, Kristen DeCicco of Groton, and his father-in-law, Rick Holloway of Waterford. The Philadelphia returned from its final deployment and is expected to be decommissioned later this year.

Groton - Nicholas Harr said hello to his son for the first time on Wednesday, and goodbye to his ship.

The USS Philadelphia (SSN 690) returned to the Naval Submarine Base Wednesday from its final deployment. The Los Angeles-class submarine is expected to be decommissioned later this year, after 33 years of service.

Harr, an electronics technician first class, said it was an honor to serve on the Philadelphia for almost six years.

"Bittersweet is definitely the best word to describe it," he said.

Harr was on the deployment in November when his first child, Alexander, was born. His wife, Ashley, and another new mother, Kristen DeCicco, strung a sign between their children's strollers that said, "Move out of my way, I'm here to meet my daddy!"

"We figured if someone didn't move over, we were running them over," Ashley Harr said, shortly before she and DeCicco charged down the pier, babies in tow.

"This is amazing," Lt. Joseph DeCicco said, holding his son, Noah, for the first time. "I'm glad I get to see him, finally."

DeCicco said serving on the Philadelphia for three years was "definitely memorable."

"I hope we made all of the former Philly sailors proud," he said.

Cmdr. John Spencer said it was an honor to command the submarine on the final deployment because "you start realizing the history involved."

"It starts with the Cold War, goes through the war on terrorism and all of the major events that have been a part of our national security in those 30 years," Spencer said, adding that the crew "really feels part of something special."

The submarine made port calls in Scotland, Bahrain and Gibraltar. The Philadelphia has traveled around the world for three decades to support various operations, including Desert Storm in 1991.

In 2004, the Philadelphia became the first Los Angeles-class submarine and only the fourth nuclear submarine ever to make 1,000 dives. Spencer said the submarine's success over the years is a testament to how well Electric Boat built it, and to the 33 years of crews that served on it.

Moneeka Mann was the first to greet the submarine, since she was chosen for the ceremonial first kiss - the last first kiss, in this case. Her husband, Deronte Mann, is a sonar technician second class.

"We've been through three deployments with the Philly," she said. "So this is a good way to end it."

j.grogan@theday.com

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