HICKSVILLE, N.Y.(CBSNewYork) -- Some excited school kids on Long Island have finally met the U.S. Navy sailor whose deployment they've been tracking for months.
As CBS2's Jessica Layton reported, the Hicksville fifth graders lined the hallways in a flag-filled 'welcome home.'
Sailor Dominick Albanese had to dance his way through the gauntlet of ecstatic students at Lee Avenue Elementary School in Hicksville as kids chanted 'USA!'
The Freeport native was being honored by the school for his service in the Navy, but in particular by teacher Linda Johnson's fifth grade class.
"He was looking for a pen pal. I agreed, and that's how it all began," Johnson said.
For the last seven months, Johnson's students have been e-mail penpals.
They first pinpointed his naval maneuvers on a globe, and charted his journey through the pacific ocean on a map.
"We went through the Philippines, got to visit places in China and Hong Kong," Albanese said. "I think it's amazing. It's literally the map of my entire deployment."
The young students had many questions including why he joined the Navy three years ago.
"I have a great sense of pride because of my uncle was in the Navy and my grandfather was in the Navy," he said.
Albanese serves as an intelligence officer aboard the USS Maikin Island troop carrier.
He told the class that sailors are ambassadors to the world.
His young pen pals also wanted to know about everyday things like the Navy's pre-packaged food.
Meals Ready to Eat, yes I have eaten that. Some are good. I recommend the spaghetti with meatball ones," he said.
Jude Bertino had an even more personal question.
"I asked Dominick if he follows the zodiac, and if so what sign is he," Bertino said.
A Pisces he said.
"These young men and women are astounding, The questions they ask, and their curiosity," he added.
Albanese's penpals handed him several gifts including the school mascot, a stuffed lion, and a hand-decorated thank you card.
Memories that Albanese said he will cherish long after he's done sailing the seven seas.
Petty Officer Albanese said he also hopes his journey will teach his pen pals about how diverse the world is.
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