Cassandra Jorgensen stood at the front of the massive crowd of families ready to meet their loved ones as they came off the USS John C. Stennis this past Friday at Naval Base Kitsap - Bremerton.
Jorgensen was there to meet her fiance, Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Allen. Jorgensen had won the special honor of “first kiss” among those waiting for loved ones to return from the carrier’s eight-month deployment.
Jorgensen met Allen in the Navy. Not only that, they met on the Stennis during its last deployment while working in the same field. She left the Navy after that deployment, but Allen stayed in.
Having been on both sides of a deployment, Jorgensen said staying at home can be much harder.
“It’s bad being on board — but the women who do this, it’s ten times harder,” Jorgensen said. “But this moment right here makes it all worth it.”
For several young and growing families, the Stennis’ return marked the first chance for children to meet their fathers and vice versa.
Justin Baty, a nuclear engineer on the John C. Stennis, got to hold his son, Maximus, for the first time.
“I’m very overwhelmed and very excited,” Baty said shortly after seeing his wife, Victoria, and their son. “It was pretty tough because he was born right at the beginning of the deployment so I didn’t get a chance to see him. This is my first chance. I’m really happy.”
Baty was not alone.
Amanda Spaulding and her children Kaytie, 3, and 5-month-old baby Zachary, born Dec. 1, also waited anxiously at the pier this past Friday for E3 Bradley Spaulding.
“It’s been challenging, but bearable,” Amanda said of her husband’s absence. “I’ve had a lot of family help.”
But that all changed about two and a half weeks ago when she and her young children moved to Port Orchard from Sacramento, California.
“We don’t know anybody up here yet,” she said. “So, we’ve just been all by ourselves until my husband comes home.”
Heather Jones brought her two children, Makenna, 5, and Logan, 1, who has spent half his life with his father away at sea, to the ship’s arrival.
Heather said her husband has deployed with the Stennis for many of its recent trips. At this point in her family’s life, though, she’s ready for some change. Jones is leaving the Navy after the ship’s most recent trip to sea.
“This is our last deployment,” Heather said. “Thank God.”
Newborn babies meeting their daddies for the first time were not the only emotional wallops packed into the pier on Friday. Culinary Specialist Ryan Webber got off the ship, dropped to one knee and extended a ring and request for marriage to Kelsey Wiggins.
She said “yes” and the young couple floated their way off the pier.