Monday, October 24, 2005

Welcoming a son home

This weekend I had the pleasure of driving to Norfolk, VA, to welcome home my son, Nathan, who has come back from Iraq aboard the USS Kearsarge. The ship came in some days ago, and my son's wife was there to give him an appropriate welcome when he arrived. Before leaving for sea duty, he had left his Honda Civic with me, and now I was happy to drive it back to him. The five-and-a-half hour drive to Norfolk gave me a chance to think about the gift of family and what a blessing each son and daughter is. Saturday afternoon Nathan took me over to the Navy base in Norfolk and, after the proper clearances, gave me a personal tour of the USS Kearsarge. First of all, I was hardly prepared for the massiveness of the ship, docked alongside many other ships -- some of them even larger, full-sized air craft carriers. He took me up to the bridge, down to the engine room, to the mess hall, the flight deck, and the medical quarters, where he worked. We met other servicemen and women whom Nathan worked with. Each was courteous to a fault. I was impressed. But most touching of all was to see the bunk where my son had spent his nights sleeping for the last six months -- a narrow "rack," as they call them, with barely enough room to roll over. It still had his name assigned to it. The sleeping quarters were still pervaded by the strong scent of human body order. A severe sacrifice, enduring that for half-a-year. Six months at sea -- across the Atlantic, through the Suez Canal, into the Persian Gulf, and various classified and unclassified port calls along the way. Some of you may remember that the Kearsarge was in the news when it was docked at Aqaba, Jordan, where several Al Queda missiles were fired in hopes of doing some damage -- one at the US ship -- but missed their target. Needless to say, it's good to have Nathan hope. We celebrated the occasion at a Greek restaurant in Norfolk. Now Nathan is awaiting his next orders, hoping to be assigned somewhere where he can start a family, if possible.

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