Wilmington natives aboard the USS San Jacinto return home for Navy Week

Wilmington natives aboard the USS San Jacinto return home for Navy Week
Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 8:11 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Residents in the Cape Fear area are used to seeing the Battleship North Carolina on the river, but this week, an active Navy ship with 300 sailors onboard has made its way to Wilmington.

The USS San Jacinto (CG-56) has been in commission for over three decades and has traveled across international waters.

The name originates from the 1836 battle that took place on the San Jacinto River during the Texas Revolution.

After being commissioned in the late 80s, it fired the opening shots of Operation Desert Storm.

In 2020, the ship broke the U.S. Navy record for most consecutive days at sea, with a total of 206 days. That seven-month journey still holds the record.

Of the hundreds of sailors that fill the bunks of the ship, a handful of them are Wilmington natives, such as Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Carlos Trejo Espinoza, who attended Myrtle Grove Middle School and New Hanover High School.

After speaking with him, it’s clear that he’s excited to be back home in the Port City.

“I’m looking forward to enjoying my old stomping ground and going back to school and visiting my teachers. I know that a lot of them still work there and show them where I’m at today. I can’t wait to see the expressions on their face, that’s a win for me as well,” said Espinoza.

He’s especially proud to tell his family and teachers that their motivation and support were why he decided to join the Navy.

“I joined to make my family proud. I had a rough upbringing, but not only in the Navy, but my teachers growing up were able to make me feel like I could be somebody and I could do something with my life. Then the Navy was just the icing on the cake,” Espinoza added.

Espinoza will never forget how Wilmington helped him 10 years ago when he was trying to decide what to do after graduating high school.

“I remember walking out of high school, going downtown, looking at the USS battleship and always wondering what I could do in my life. I was thinking of the military because seeing that ship kind of motivated me and inspired me to do something. Then I join the military from Wilmington, North Carolina and I never would have thought in a million years that 10 years down the line I’m here on this ship in my city,” he said.

Espinoza had his son with him on the ship and he was eager to give him a tour of where he lived and works when he’s at sea.

The public doesn’t get to see the workplace of a Navy sailor very often, but tours will be available of the USS San Jacinto on Friday, April 14 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Those interested are asked to go to Godwin Stadium, located at 121 Shipyard Blvd. in Wilmington. A security check will happen at the stadium and then a bus will transport you to the ship.

Walk-ins are welcome and all they ask is that you bring your ID and wear closed-toed shoes.

Wilmington’s Navy Week is one of 15 Navy Weeks in 2023, and each year the program reaches more than 140 million people, which is about half the U.S. population. To see a full schedule of events, you can find that here.