Before Thursday I had only been to submarine homecomings. [No, I take that back, I've been to a cruiser homecoming...I took pictures for my old neighbor, Dawn, when her husband Ted came home]. The number of guys on board varies to 130-150ish, but usually about half are married. So there would be families on the pier, sometimes parents of sailors too, but never in my life have I seen anything like what we saw Thursday. So many people, so many wives and children, and something I hadn't seen before at a homecoming, the husband of a sailor. It was heartwarming to see husbands with children waiting for their wives to come back home. Seeing all of those people standing and Manning the Rails gave me goose bumps. I didn't think Bob would be standing outside, but sure enough he was. He was standing outside on the Admiral's Bridge, and to the left you can see a picture with a white arrow pointing to where he was.
They spelled out "Hajimemashite" on the flight deck. It means "Nice to meet you."
Those of you that watched "Carrier" on PBS should recognize this guy.
I was too starstruck to say hello. Okay, he was busy and I had two kids in tow.
Hawaii = hula dancers on the pier, Japan = Taiko drummers!
MWR (Morale, Welfare & Recreation) and the USO (United Services Organizations) did a wonderful job to make sure the families were taken care of and occupied on the pier while waiting. We took advantage of a shuttle bus set up especially for the event, and even though they didn't pull in until 10 am, we arrived at the pier around 7:45 am. We had time to eat, walk around and take it all in. Freebies were all over the place; from sewing kits to magnets, pens and pencils, all the way to DVDs! Keanna got a Muppet pirate movie courtesy of the USO. One of my favorite things that morning was participating in Colors. While I was getting us some egg sandwiches I heard First Call to Colors and knew what was coming five minutes later. I rushed back to our seats and told the girls that we'd hear our National Anthem and will have to stand with our hands on our hearts. Both did great, didn't talk and I was so proud of them. Immediately after our Anthem the Japanese Anthem was played; it's played every morning on Yokosuka. For the Japanese Anthem we still have to stand still, but put our arms at our sides. We were standing around American sailors and Japanese sailor, and it was just amazing to me. It really hit me where we live and the wonderful opportunity we have!
Bob took a picture of the pier from where he was standing, and I've also added the picture he took at homecoming (the sub) in November in Hawaii. Here's his view of the pier Thursday.
And homecoming in November...and keep in mind, this was the largest homecoming I've ever seen. We even had hula dancers!
Anyway, getting back to it, if you're interested, here is an article about the G.W.'s arrival in Yokosuka. And don't forget to check out my Shutterfly album with lots of pictures from Thursday! You may have heard about protestors here, and there were some. I have a few pictures in the Shutterfly album, and in there you'll see it wasn't a large crowd and the police looked to out number them!
There were a lot of speakers too. The Ambassador to Japan spoke along with the Secretary of the Navy. Everyone had their turn to talk, and Sydney fell asleep on my lap during that part. All the while we were sitting/standing waiting for our loved ones to be released. After about an hour of speeches the Commanding Officer announced liberty. Bob came off about 45 minutes after that, we headed back onto the shuttle and came home.
Below are two short videos; the first is Keanna and Sydney with Bob and the second are the Taiko drummers that were on the pier. Adjust your speakers accordingly! And if you get the blog entries emailed to you, you'll have to come to the blog website to view them.