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A 'Bridge' to troubled waters
Lets go, says 25-year-old Jake Rose. He just shaved his beard off, so his face is getting slapped from the hard ocean wind. Tattoos run up and down his forearms. Hes got a confident smile that can be mistaken for a smirk.
Rose, a Bremerton resident and Boatswains Mate Third Class on the Navy supply ship USS Bridge, departed Wednesday with about 500 of his shipmates for an undetermined period in the Middle East.
Even though he is probably headed to war, he isnt afraid.
For me this is what I do, he said. This is what I signed up for. Theres an understanding that were here to protect the freedom of this country. If my life is the ultimate price I pay for that, then I will pay ...
Everyone that signs up for the armed forces knows exactly what they are getting into, Rose said.
It is not something we talk about openly, he said.
Rose is quick to snap a joke. He has already served in the Navy for two-and-a-half years. He has been deployed before, but not in wartime.
The most challenging aspect will be keeping everybody focused, keeping things in perspective, Rose said.
He and his shipmates consider their vessel one of the safer ships in the fleet. The Bridge is a Bremerton-based fast combat support ship. Long, crane-like loading arms stretch up from its sides. It will offer supplies to the five guided missile cruisers and destroyer USS Oldendorf in the Nimitz group.
We may not do the fighting first hand but we make it possible, Rose said.
Jonathan Zurn is a little more sure in his hope than Rose.
All I know is we are going and we are coming back. I see our ship as the safest in the Navy. I know we are coming back.
All he is looking forward to is seeing his girlfriend when he comes back to port. Usually the deployments last six months, but they can go longer.
Within a couple minutes of departure, all family members and media have walked down the steel ladder and stand on the dock looking up at the gray steel sides.
Stacey Newell was the last Navy wife to kiss her husband goodbye. They shared a long hug and a couple pecks before her eyes went wet with tears.
He climbed the ladder with a confident swagger and a mug of coffee in his hand. His shipmates chided him as he stepped aboard.
In this time it is scary but the sooner they leave the sooner they come home, Stacey Newell said from the dock.
Newell supports his job, regardless of the tears.
The way he and I both feel is he joined the Navy for no other reason than to serve his country. You have to feel that way or it will drive you crazy when hes gone.
Next to Newell is Pam Rynearson, whose fiance Westbrook Harrison is on the Bridge. Her three children from a previous marriage pace around her, sometimes standing by her side, other times walking up near the ship for a closer look.
You dont like this at all, do you, Harrison says to her 11-year-old son Andrew.
He shakes his head no.
Next to Andrew was his 16-year-old brother Matt, a sophomore at Bremerton High School. Matt doesnt want his dad to go.
It is good hes going to go protect us, Matt said. But hell be back in six months.