Our trek back across the ocean was not very eventful but it was full of little exercises with the ships we were transiting with. The seas were rough but that’s what you can expect in the late fall season entering winter months. We managed to avoid all of the storms and stay on the good news side of things. I did need to take a few motion sickness pills but nothing too serious.
Once we transited the Atlantic we came sailing into Mayport FL, the whole strike group included… even the carrier. While here we embarked different individuals for what was called a “Tiger Cruise”. I’m still not really sure how the Tiger Cruise got its name but it basically is where you embark friends and family (no wives or girlfriends allowed) and they are able to sail back with you on the ship and the ship does a whole bunch of things that show everyone a little bit about the Navy. My dad sailed back from Newport RI a year before, and this time I invited my best friend from college M to join us for the deployment reunion. She of course wanted to finally see what I do for a living, and she was very excited to come back with us and see.
We had a grand time. They held all kinds of events with the strike group, we even did a full power run against all of the other ships to see who was fastest or realistically who was the least broke. haha. Fighter jets performed an air show from the carrier and we conducted an UNREP for everyone to see what that is like as well. It was really a lot of fun.
THE NIGHT BEFORE WE PULLED IN:
The night before we pulled in we did have a channel fever night, (although I don’t think it is anything like the English Channel fever the British do), but none the less there were events leading into the night and most importantly a very serious game of BINGO. J had, like always, bought $$150 in bingo tickets and so he definitely needed help for his last chance to win. I was really pulling for him this time since we had about 6 bingo games throughout the deployment and he had seriously paid no less than $100 on tickets per game and didn’t win one thing.
We were sitting on the mess decks and the big game was about to come up for a 46 inch TV and I was playing 6 of his cards when the captain tapped me on the shoulder. He said, “I just found out where you are going, do you want to know?”
I instantly became very nervous because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know or not so I told him I would come up to his cabin to find out once the game was done. I was nervously looking at M and I told her I wanted her to come with me. She said she would.
After the game we walked up to the Captain’s cabin and the Executive Officer (XO) was in talking to him. I looked at them both expectantly because I knew that the XO knew too. The captain said, “You wanted to go to Japan didn’t you?”
I hesitantly said, “yes”.
He said, “Well you’re going to Sasebo, to an LSD (Amphibious landing ship dock)
I just stared back at him not even realizing I had been holding my breath. I was very torn. I had wanted Japan very much, but then when I got it, it became very overwhelming all at once too.
He told me about my next ship, one that I had never heard of, he told me I’d probably get my orders in the next few months, and then he said I could digest all of that and come back and talk to him later with more of my questions.
M and I walked out of there and I immediately went into freak out mode for the next 20 minutes. Japan, Japan, JAPAN! I’m moving to Japan for almost two years. I’m going to be living and communicating (or not communicating since I know not one Japanese word) in Japan for the next two years. Wow. That was just something to take in.
Needless to say I didn’t sleep very much the night before the end of my first and the ship’s first 7 month deployment. When we pulled in everything was a whirl. I felt like my life was on fast forward and I was watching everything happen but outside of myself. When we pulled into the pier I saw my dad’s worn WVU hat that I had given last Christmas bobbing in the crowd. My mom was waving frantically beside him. They were looking for me, but were unable to find me.
The brow was thrown across and the first group of people came on board. It was a very crisp, cool, winter day to finally be back home.
When I was finally able to get off the ship, I ran to greet my parents with M in tow and after we had made a greetings I broke the news to them about my next tour. My mom started crying, I should have guessed. She was just seeing me and I would be leaving again soon to live overseas. It was overwhelming for her too. We laughed a lot and I told them about some of the deployment and introduced them to the new officers. I don’t think my day calmed down at all until that night when I finally got to sleep in my own bed again, after so long.
Coming back to the house to see everyone was great! My roommates were all there. The house was packed that night since we had my four boy roommates, me, M, and all of our family members. It was a very sarcastic night as well, since we had not been able to make fun of each other for so long aside from the emails.
The experience of a “Coming Home” is not one I will easily forget and nor do I take for granted all of the little things that mean so much. It was a great day to be A’mericin.