Returning submariner celebrates with marriage proposal

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristina Young / U.S. Navy Photo MM2 2nd Class Jerrel Revels proposes to his boyfriend, Dylan Kirchner, at the Naval Submarine Base on Monday.

Groton — After six months aboard the USS New Mexico (SSN 779), MM2 2nd class Jerrel Revels stepped onto Pier 31 at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton Monday afternoon, took to one knee, and proposed to his partner, Dylan Kirchner.

The proposal comes two years after the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" — the U.S. military's ban on openly gay service members passed in 1993.

Revels, originally from Texas, met Kirchner, of Plainfield, through mutual friends last September.

"It kind of tickled my mind every now and then that (he would propose) but I never expected this," Kirchner said. "I didn't really care everbody was around. It felt just like the two of us."

The couple, who have not yet set a date for their wedding, were amid a crowd of more than 200 relatives and friends who were on hand to greet the returning crew. After departing from the submarine base on Feb. 13, the New Mexico transited more than 34,000 miles in the European region, stopping at Norway, Scotland and Spain.

The deployment was the first for the vessel as well as for 70 percent of the boat's 132-man crew, whose median age was 20.

Chief of the Boat Steven Fritzler said he was "astounded" with the diligence and hard work of the newcomer crew.

"Attitude and enthusiasm goes a long way," said Cmdr. George Perez.

STS3 Zachary King, who was on his first sub deployment, grinned while in a circle with his family and friends as he joked about the rainy weather in Scotland and times watching movies and playing video games with his shipmates.

"I was pretty excited about [the deployment]. I loved pulling into the ports of call," said King, who now plans some rest and relaxation before his next assignment.

The first crew members off the boat were cheered on for the traditional "first kiss" and "first hug." Since none of the crew had missed a birth of one of their children over the past six months, Marlaina Malone greeted her husband at the pier with their daughter — the youngest baby before deployment.

"She just started saying 'Da-da' this week," said Malone, as she clutched her 8-month-old, Molly, adorned in a red, white, and blue headband.

Fritzler will remain with the New Mexico for its second deployment, expected early next year, but Perez will pass on command at a ceremony aboard the vessel Aug. 30.

Although Deidra Burke won the first hug through a random drawing, her oldest sons, Isaac and Ethan, were there first to welcome their father, Electrician Mate First Class Jason Burke, home while she held on to their sleeping youngest son, Owen.

It was Burke's third deployment but the first in which she was left with all three sons.

"It's wonderful to have him home but I kept the boys busy," Deidra said. "I think we'll go to Hershey Park."

John Bergeron, 2, center, covers his ears as docked submarines gave a single-blast salute to the returning USS New Mexico while he and his mother, Jessica Bergeron, blocked by sign, wait to greet their loved ones Monday. They were joined by sister Evelynne Bergeron, 4, right, friend Michelle Caswell, rear right, and Beau Goulas, left, with his mother, Jamie Goulas.
Dana Jensen/The Day John Bergeron, 2, center, covers his ears as docked submarines gave a single-blast salute to the returning USS New Mexico while he and his mother, Jessica Bergeron, blocked by sign, wait to greet their loved ones Monday. They were joined by sister Evelynne Bergeron, 4, right, friend Michelle Caswell, rear right, and Beau Goulas, left, with his mother, Jamie Goulas.
Molly Malone, 8 months, and her mother, Marlaina Malone, of Norwich, greet her father, Fire Control Technician First Class Sam Malone, after he and his fellow crew members of the USS New Mexico, a Virginia-class attack submarine, returned to the Naval Submarine Base in Groton after its inaugural deployment on Monday.
Dana Jensen/The Day Molly Malone, 8 months, and her mother, Marlaina Malone, of Norwich, greet her father, Fire Control Technician First Class Sam Malone, after he and his fellow crew members of the USS New Mexico, a Virginia-class attack submarine, returned to the Naval Submarine Base in Groton after its inaugural deployment on Monday.
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