USS Higgins, USS Stockdale, USS William P. Lawrence depart San Diego for western Pacific deployment

SAN DIEGO - Three San Diego-based guided-missile destroyers departed Monday for a western Pacific deployment with the Nimitz Strike Group Surface Action Force.

The Navy reported a couple of months ago that the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, which lends its name to the strike group, will remain behind at its homeport of Everett, Wash., for a couple of months to deal with maintenance issues.

The USS Higgins, USS Stockdale and USS William P. Lawrence left Naval Base San Diego and will meet up with the Everett-based USS Shoup at sea.

For Emily Hayth, Monday was an especially tough day because her husband is on his first deployment. 

"I'm two months pregnant, so he's going to miss a lot," Hayth said.

Jessica Long has been through this before, but she says it does not get any easier.

"It's hard," she said. "Even if it is a short time, it's still hard just... especially because he's getting to the age where he's, you know, 'Where's Daddy? Where's Daddy?' So, it's going to be a bit of an adjustment."

The 1,200 combined crew members who make up Destroyer Squadron 23 will focus on unspecified maritime and theater security missions, which usually involves anti-piracy and ballistic missile defense.

"We get under way to ensure that we are supporting our vital national interests for the United States, to make sure that we are reassuring our friends and allies around the world, and to make sure that, if required, we are ready to defeat our enemies," Capt. Bill Parker, commander of DesRon 23, told 10News.

The USS Higgins is named for Marine Col. William R. Higgins, who served in Vietnam and was later taken hostage and killed by pro-Iranian terrorists in Lebanon.

The USS Stockdale is named for Vice Adm. James B. Stockdale, a Navy pilot and longtime Coronado resident who was a prisoner of war for eight years in Vietnam.

Vice Adm. William P. Lawrence was a naval aviator who commanded the Third Fleet and rose to deputy chief of naval operations.

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