GROTON, Conn. (AP) – The USS Pittsburgh submarine returned home to dozens of flag-waving family and friends Sunday after nearly seven months at sea, on routine patrol before being deployed in the war in Iraq.

“It’s great. After seven months, nothing could be better,” said torpedo specialist Mike Mingiony, who is married with four daughters. “Other than the day they were born, it’s the best day of my life.”

The Los Angeles-class, fast-attack sub left the New London Naval Submarine Base in Groton in October for a routine patrol mission in the Mediterranean Sea in Europe. It was later called to action in the war in Iraq and fired Tomahawk cruise missiles into that country.

The sub base is home to 16 attack submarines. The USS San Juan sub returned home Thursday to the same fanfare, and the USS Toledo returned the week before.

U.S. submarines launched about 30 percent of the more than 800 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired in the war, according to the Navy.

Helmut Lehofer, one of 130 crew members on the Pittsburgh, said the mission against Iraq was partly one of revenge.

“This is all for Todd Beamer and the heroes of 9-11,” Lehofer said. “It’s payback time.”

Beamer, 32, of Cranbury, N.J., was a passenger on the plane that was hijacked in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He is famed for saying, “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll,” in leading an apparent attack on the terrorists, bringing the plane down in rural Pennsylvania before it could strike a target in Washington, D.C.

AP-ES-04-27-03 2018EDT

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