Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Home from Sea

It was 7:00 a.m. and all those in the intelligence division were gathered for morning quarters.

We had just left the Gulf to begin our six week journey home and were on our way for a few days of liberty in Thailand. Lcdr. Segura walked in to read whatever notices there were to read.

"I have a message to read from Amcross," he began. "This message is to the USS Nimitz, received 2323 zulu last night, to Seaman Kracht."

Mr. Segura looked up from the paper he was reading from with a slight smile on his face before continuing on. With mention of my name, I began listening.

"Wife Elaine requests advise birth of baby boy. Verification by Dr. Frank Zarka of O'Connor Hospital this city. Doctor states baby born 26 June 1993 at 1530 hours, 7 lbs. 15 oz., named Sean Jeffrey. Mother and child doing well."

Applause broke out from the rest of the guys. It was a nice moment and as soon as quarters broke up, I told my best friends in the division -- Scott and Mark -- to meet me in the SCIF. It was the only place where we could have some privacy. In the meantime, I headed to the Chief's refrigerator and retrieved the three ice cold near beers that Mr. Holcomb had given me a month or so earlier. Boy, did they taste good.

For about ten minutes, Scott, Mark and I toasted the birth of my new son, Sean. It would be a few weeks before I even saw a picture of Sean and I wouldn't get to hold him for another six weeks. It's sad to think about now, but at the time I was just glad that Elaine was okay and that our ship was on its way home.

First, though, we'd stop for about four days of liberty in Thailand. From there, we headed back east across the Pacific to Hawaii, San Diego, and finally back to our home port of Bremerton, Washington. Unfortunately for me, Elaine and our new baby were still down in California. I spent the next four days finding and renting an apartment for us in the small town of Port Orchard. Once that was done, I flew down to San Jose and reunited, finally, with my family.

That was a happy day. The remaining two-and-a-half years of my enlistment, however, wouldn't be quite so nice.

Shortly after Elaine, Sean and I got settled into our new apartment in Port Orchard, the Nimitz went into dry dock. Lots of the veteran guys on the ship had warned that "going into the yards" -- as it was called -- could be worse than going to sea. I found that hard to believe, but as far as esprit de corps was concerned it turned out to be true.

For about the next 14 months, everything short of the nuclear reactors powering the Nimitz was completely overhauled, inside and out.

It was a horrible existence.

The picture of Sean and me, above, was taken about eight months after my return from the Gulf. I was a relatively new petty officer third class and, judging by the dress uniform, must have been on my way to watch.

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