Rain Doesn't Dampen Reunions as Sailors Return from Deployment

USS Winston S. Churchill (U.S. Navy photo)
USS Winston S. Churchill (U.S. Navy photo)

NORFOLK -- Heather Lawson was in the 14th week of her pregnancy when her husband, Jeffrey, deployed on the guided missile destroyer Winston S. Churchill on March 9.

In her arms on the Navy pier Saturday, she held her 2-month old son, Talon, in her arms. "I love daddy" was written on the pacifier clip attached to his onesie.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeffrey Lawson, an electrician's mate, would meet him for the first time in less than an hour.

"When he left, we knew we'd be here today," Heather Lawson said. "I'm sad he missed my pregnancy, but I knew he'd be back. We knew we would be really excited."

Both the Churchill and the guided missile destroyer Forrest Sherman returned to Norfolk on Saturday from their eight-month deployment as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group. The ships escorted merchant vessels through the Strait of Hormuz and helped ensure unencumbered navigation in Middle Eastern waterways, said Capt. Fred Pyle, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 2, of which the ships are a part.

"I just want each and every sailor and their families to know how proud I am of what they have accomplished," Pyle said. "We have asked a tremendous amount of each of these sailors and their families over the last two years."

By the time the Churchill reached the pier, a heavy rain was falling. A young mother held up a sign for a sailor, ink dripping onto her son's already soggy head.

The boy's eyes were fixed on the deck of the Churchill, where sailors stood waiting out the last minutes of their deployment by waving at their loved ones.

Caran and Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Jimenez's family was one of the first reunited. Caran Jimenez won the raffle for first hug, one of several "first" raffles Navy families participate in when a ship arrives.

"This is my second deployment winning the first hug. It was pretty fantastic," she said. "I was pretty speechless. They are the first ones off the ship, which is kind of nice on a day like today."

Grace and Samuel Jimenez approached their father shyly, at first hesitant before running into his arms.

Michael Jimenez, a fire controlman, said he'd been looking forward to the moment he was reunited with his kids since he left.

"They've gotten bigger," he said.

Lt. Samantha Drumb's family waited patiently on the dock for her first deployment to end.

"This first one has really been hard," said Greg Hardy, her fiance.

He had come from Florida along with several other family members.

Drumb had already planned where they would go once she was off the ship, said Drumb's mother, Diane McGovern

"We're going to Chick's Oyster Bar to watch the Florida State game," she said.

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