Stennis finally home after lengthy tour

Matthew Gossett holds his 3 1/2-month-old daughter Charlie Mae for the first time Friday morning as his wife Kristen looks on.  - Photo by Jesse Beals
Matthew Gossett holds his 3 1/2-month-old daughter Charlie Mae for the first time Friday morning as his wife Kristen looks on.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

Addison Carter traveled a long way to see her father Friday morning as he was one of the more than 3,000 sailors aboard the USS John C. Stennis as it finally arrived at its Bremerton homeport.

“We’re going to Sea World,” the 5-year-old said. “It’s fun.”

For Carter’s girlfriend, Kristine Smith from Arizona, the Stennis’ arrival at about 9:30 a.m. was a welcomed end to seven-and-a-half months of waiting.

“It’s really exciting and I just can’t wait to see him and for him to see his daughter,” Smith said.

Carter’s mother, Jina Carter from Jacksonville, Fla., also was in the crowd waiting for her son to arrive.

“He followed in his father’s footsteps and this is the first time we’ve come to see him in Bremerton,” Jina Carter said. “It’s different for his father to see him come in.”

The Carters weren’t the only ones who traveled thousands of miles across the country for the Stennis’ homecoming, Steve Broadfield and his wife Eileen Broadfield along with daughter Jennifer Geib, son-in-law Steven Geib and their three children, Liam, Griffin and Cole made the trip from Connecticut to see Lisa Broadfield’s arrival.

“It’s very exciting and emotional,” Steve said as 2 1/2-year-old Cole sat propped up on his shoulders to see the aircraft carrier slowly make its way to the pier. “Bremerton’s been great.”

Along with those waiting for their sons and daughters to return home, several sailors got to see their newborn children for the first time Friday as 22 new babies were scattered throughout the crowd.

“It’s very emotional,” said sailor Matthew Gossett as he held his 3 1/2-month-old daughter Charlie Mae for the first time. “She’s so beautiful. It’s been a long wait.”

Gossett’s wife, Kristen, said she was just happy to finally have her husband home after the long deployment.

New father DJ Shamblen lost sleep over the excitement of seeing his 4-month-old son, Cade, for the first time.

“I’ve been up all night waiting for this,” DJ said. “It’s so amazing.”

Shamblen’s wife, Brooke, said she is glad her son and husband can finally spend time together.

“I don’t care if he does help around the house,” she said. “He and his son can be together.”

Although Moira Gibson was waiting for her husband, Kyle, along with their two older children, Friday marked the first time Kyle got to hold their 4-month-old son Hayden.

“It’s great,” Kyle said. “It looks like he’s really doing well.”

While there were plenty of hugs and kisses to go around during the homecoming festivities, Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn, commander of the USS John C. Stennis Strike Force, said he is proud of the way his sailors and Marines performed admirably throughout the seven-and-a-half-month deployment.

“We left here seven-and-a-half months ago and sailed straight into the Persian Gulf,” Quinn said. “We performed intense combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

Those operations were in direct support of forces on the ground, and the entire group performed at a very high level, he said.

“The performance of the strike group was spectacular,” he said.

After a 30-day standdown period, the ship will spend six months receiving any necessary maintenance and repairs before ramping up for another possible combat deployment, Quinn said.

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