BREMERTON, Wash. - After more than eight months at sea, the Bremerton-based aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis came home as thousands of sailors were met in bright sunshine by family, friends and loves ones.
“It’s awesome. It has been a long eight to nine months. It’s been really long, it’s been hard,” said Sade Fagan as she greeted her boyfriend, Josh Foreman.
Fagan gave birth to the couple’s daughter while Foreman was at sea. He met her for the first time after the ship dock at Naval Base Kitsap.
Asked how it felt to hold his little girl, Foreman said, “I can’t even put it into words right now.”
The family of sailor Danielle Bender traveled from New York to be dockside as she ended her time at sea.
“It feels amazing. We’re just so excited to have her back home on American soil. It’s just great,” said Bender’s mother, Diane.
Sailor Tessa Gray came home to a marriage proposal as her boyfriend David Burnett got down on one knee and said, “Make me the happiest man in the world.”
Gray accepted, calling her homecoming “amazing, it feels perfect, it’s like a dream." She also accepted Burnett's proposal.
The Stennis was ordered back to sea last summer after a short stay at its home port in Bremerton because of rising tension in the Middle East and North Korea.
The ship carried out more than 1,300 sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan as well as patrolling the western Pacific Ocean, traveling well over 66,000 nautical miles since its deployment last year.
Sailor Nehamiah Ulibarria called the short turnaround “pretty tough. It was really hard, especially being gone for so long from seeing the baby.”
Ulibarri also returned to a daughter born while he was at sea. Asked what it was like to be home, Ulibarri said, “I can’t explain it. It’s very emotional right now.”