The U.S. Navy League's South Bay Council on Monday "adopted" the Bunker Hill, becoming a second family to the 350 crew members who recently returned after years of service in Japan.
The council's 200 members will lend the sailors emotional support, such as writing letters and welcoming them into their homes for the holidays if they can't be with their own families, said Donald Budai, president of the council. When necessary, council members can provide crew with financial, legal and professional assistance.
"It's just nice to know they have a family away from their families," said Chris Penton, the ship's command master chief. "That's what it's all about."
The Bunker Hill, commissioned in Boston in 1986, spent most of the past 10 years sailing out of Yokosuka, Japan. The ship, a Ticonderoga class cruiser, escorts aircraft carriers and carries an advanced weapons system that can track several hundred targets simultaneously.
It was recently redeployed to San Diego, giving the South Bay group the opportunity for sponsorship. Council members will be given tours of the ship, and crew members will get involved in the communities represented by the council, providing technical and mechanical expertise when needed.
The league is a national group of Navy supporters who use adoption as a means of showing appreciation for service personnel in the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.