California-based Coast Guard unit returns home, reunites with families after $312 million cocaine bust

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KGO) -- If the saying goes, "distance makes the heart grow fonder," then on Monday in Alameda, Calif., hearts were bursting as several Coast Guard service members returned to their families after months away, while on a mission seizing illegal drugs on international waters.


We were at Coast Guard Island as a mom suddenly yelled, "Go get him, go get him!" to her two little girls who raced toward the cutter Bertholf, where a man was waiting with outstretched arms.

"I missed you so much!" he exclaimed while giving each girl a kiss. "Oh my goodness, let me see your smile!"


Service members from the Coast Guard had been aboard the vessel for months and Monday was their welcome home.

Christopher Santos is relieved to be back.

"It was really tiring, but it's good to be home!" he said.


His mother, Betty Martinez Santos, couldn't agree more.

"I started crying because I missed him so much and I didn't want him to leave," she said.

"Leave" meant working on international waters as one of several Coast Guard vessels seizing 18,000 pounds of cocaine to keep more than $300 million worth of drugs off the street.

RELATED: Coast Guard seizes 18,000 lbs of suspected cocaine worth estimated $312 million

The Bertholf itself was on a mission that seized about 6,000 pounds of drugs from waters off Mexico, Central America and South America.

"It makes you feel like you're doing something and you have a purpose for being out there," said one man who was greeted by his three children.

After unloading the goods in San Diego, with the hard work behind them, Monday was all about making up for lost time.

Father and husband Kevin Lauvenheimer knows how precious time at home is.

"This is the second time they've done this year, it's good to be back," he said.

When asked how much they missed their father, Lauvenheimer's son beamed and responded enthusiastically "A LOT!" While his daughter sweetly replied, "Like, a hundred percent!"

These reunions are about making plans.


"We're going to Disneyland!" exclaimed one woman who waited what seemed like an extra hour, compared to other families, for her boyfriend to walk off the vessel.

"Disneyland and honestly, just being back seeing some family," said the woman's boyfriend. "It's going to be a good time."

Samuel Park, who waited for his girlfriend while clutching a large bouquet of pink flowers and the leash to a fluffy white German Shepard named Ghost, says it's about the little things.

"I made her Korean Soup," he said. "She's been dying for it so I made her some. If it doesn't work out, we'll go to In-n-Out."

Including spending time together as a family. Just in time for Christmas.

"We're going to give hugs and that's the first thing. Hugs and cookies," said a son of one of the Coast Guard members.

Families will have several months to spend with their loved ones before their next deployment early next year.
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