It all started the day before. I drove from Richmond to Norfolk to meet up with my fellow navy girlfriend, Angela, and get ready for the night before reception. I was so scatter-brained that I had to turn around twice... once for my welcome home sign and the other for my homecoming outfit. DUH! It was awesome meeting up with Angela after talking for almost 8 months online. It's amazing, though, no matter what, people never sound like they "should". She's just as great as I expected and we had a wonderful time. We ran a few errands I needed to do around Norfolk, got our parking passes for homecoming, and checked into the Navy Lodge.
The funniest part was when (while trying to talk on the phone of course) I turned left too early and instead of pulling into the parking lot for the building to get our parking passes, I turn into gate 5 for the base with no way to turn around. So, I tell my friend I'll call them back and pull right up to the cute sailor in his camis. I turn on the sourthern charm and flash my biggest smile possible with the largest lost puppy dog eyes I can muster and say, "Oh dear me! I'm so sorry! I think I went the wrong way. I'm trying to get my parking pass for homecoming tomorrow!!!" He smiled and confirmed that I had made a wrong turn. He was so nice and stopped traffic coming out of the base so I could turn around. I made sure to smile big and thank him as I left. I told the girls that just because I was a feminist didn't mean I could work it when I needed to! Heheheh! Then we met up with my favorite veteran Navy wife, Kim, and headed off to the night before reception on the base.
(I stole your pic Kim. The one on my phone didn't come out as well as your did.)
The night before reception wasn't as great as I was hoping. The room was really big and there were a lot of people. When the speakers got up, I could tell they were giving some really great information about getting on the pier and parking and such but the sound was so bad that we couldn't hear what they were saying. So after the slide show of the sailors and what they've been doing/ where they've been, we headed back to the Navy Lodge. We cracked open a bottle of red wine and settled in for the evening. I figured I wouldn't get any sleep but by about 1pm, I was dead asleep. I am sooo thankful that I was able to stay at the navy lodge instead of having to drive back to Richmond. It was so nice, also, to be able to talk with someone who felt as anxious and nervous and excited as I did.
So at the butt crack of dawn I wake up. Of course I had hardly slept for fear of oversleeping and missing the entire homecoming (which had been a reoccurring dream for the past few weeks)! My roommate, Mandy (Jay is Mandy's husband and Angela's boyfriend's supervisor), was supposed to get in the shower but I could tell she was going no where fast, so I just jumped in and took my time getting ready and putting on my make up and such. We went up to Angela's room that she was sharing with a couple of her and Brian's friends.
We were all so excited we could hardly talk but were all quite worried about the wind on the pier which of course none of us had really thought about when we'd chosen our homecoming outfits. Opps!
So we grab a quick bagel (which we'd been smart enough to pick up the night before) and headed out to the pier. Believe it or not we had 4 girls and 1 sort of metro boy out the door by our designated time of 7am. We'd heard so many different things about when the ship was supposed to be pier side, everything from 9-9:30 to 11-11:30 so we figured we'd play it safe.
I left early to grab some gas on the way and soon figured out that the gate we had all planned to go in was only allowing traffic to enter from the other direction and was VERY backed up. So, I called the others and gave them the heads up to go in the other gate. Getting on base was no problem but it took a little navigating to find the pier since we were coming from a different gate. I parked a ways from the pier since the girls had said it's a huge pain to get out if you park too close. I grabbed my sign
, met back up with the others and we headed for the pier. It was a truly awesome sight and a wonderful feeling to know that soon it would all be over! We were lucky enough to snag a seat on the bleachers which was a life saver. I'd have hated to stand the whole time!
We settled in for the long wait and I looked around and thought how strange it was that there weren't more people there. Little did I know they were all to come!
It was funny to see all us girls who had spent the last probably 7 months worrying about our outfits standing there without shoes on or wrapped up in sweaters or whatever. It's amazing how something may seem perfect in your home or at the hotel but doesn't quite work at the pier!
Soon, the other ships in the group started coming in, which only made wait harder!
There were some people who were standing lookout at the top of the bleachers. One guy in particular had assured us he would let us know when he could see the IKE, so after what felt like a lifetime, we finally heard a strong, "WOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOO!!!!!" And we knew it was coming home!
It took it a while to get to the pier, but not as long as I was expecting. They were blaring music on the pier (The Boys are Back in Town was my favorite!) which gave the whole thing a party feel. I turned around and realized that the entire pier had filled up and I was so thankful that we'd gotten there when we did!
They pulled over to the pier and then backed in! It was so awesome to see!
The sailors were manning the rails and it was so amazing! We searched and searched and searched for our boys since Angela, Mandy and I all knew our guys had been "voluntold" the day before that they would be manning the rails. Of course we were sure we could see our guys just to find out later they were on the other freaking side of the ship! Hehe! Oh well! Wishful thanking, I guess!
They finally started tying in and I really thought I might turn inside out. I was so worried about spotting him! There were probably 10,000 people on the pier and I knew there were close to 5,000 sailors coming off!! Worry wort me is freaking out because they had these fences up and I couldn't figure out how he would be able to get to me. Come to find out they took the fences away as soon as they called general liberty and the mad rush of sailors started coming off.
We were very lucky. Mandy's husband, Ryan, was able to get cell service where they were standing and started texting her. He confirmed that Rakes (Brian) and Stafford (Jay) were with him and we let them all know that we were in the first set of bleachers! They were able to let us know that they were fairly close to the front and should be off right away once liberty was called.
Watching the waves of sailors in their dress whites pour out of the brows was one of the most thrilling things I've ever seen. I stayed about half way up the bleachers so hopefully our guys could see us. Next thing we know Mandy and Angela's guys come through the crowd. I was so excited and then extremely nervous when I didn't see Jay too!!! I start yelling, "What happened to Jay?? Did you guys ditch him?!?!?!?!?" I look out at the see of dress white uniforms and start panicking! What if I'm not able to find him!!! I decided to just stay right where I was since that's where he knew to look for me and just a couple of minutes later I spotted him making his way through the crowd to me! I make my way down the bleachers trying not to fall, figured eating metal or concrete wouldn't be that cute!
I drop my camera back and throw my arms around him! He pulls me tight into him, picks me up and says, "Hi beautiful!" After over 5 1/2 years of not having him in my life at all, a year of being separated and 8 months out to sea... feeling his arms around me again was the most thrilling moment of my life! I'll never forget the moment I saw him for the first time or the look on his face when our eyes met.
The last 4 days have been the best of my life! He's amazing, and every fear I had about us not working out has melted away. I've never been so content in all my life. There is nothing I want more than to be with him forever.
I wish I had pictures of him in his dress whites on the pier or of us, but the moment I saw him I totally forgot about taking pictures! I'll try and get some new ones of us soon. We're turning in an application for the apartment we want on Tuesday and hope to get the keys on Thursday. I'll make sure and post pictures and let everyone know how it goes!
Thank you to everyone who helped me through this difficult time in my life! I'm thankful for each and everyone of you! Have a great day and I promise to keep ya updated!
thanks for listening, y'all!