USS Nimitz pulls into port at Naval Station Everett for first time

EVERETT — When the USS Nimitz pulled into port at Naval Station Everett on Friday, March 9, its crew received a heroes' welcome from not only a host of local dignitaries, but also a number of the sailors' loved ones, who were glad to have their husbands, wives, fathers, mothers and significant others that much closer to home, albeit a new home for many.

Amber Cameron and Jennifer Lightsey both live in Marysville now, and arrived that morning to wait on the pier for their husbands.

"I'm pretty darned excited," said Amber Cameron, who noted that the aircraft carrier had undergone a year-long overhaul at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. "This means no more two-hour commute."

"I'm happy he's finally here," said Jennifer Lightsey, who moved to the area in April of last year, even earlier than Amber Cameron, who had arrived in June. "It took him long enough," she laughed.

While Amber and Jeffrey Cameron both come from Minnesota originally, Jennifer and Mike Lightsey's last home was in Texas.

"I like it here," Amber Cameron said. "It reminds me of home. I still miss the Mall of America, though," she laughed.

"It's very different from what I'm used to, with the cold," Jennifer Lightsey said. "I've adapted to different areas before, though. I've been from the East Coast to the West Coast."

Jeffrey Cameron has served in the fleet three years and been married to Amber for a little over a year, while Mike Lightsey has served in the fleet eight years and will have been married to Jennifer five years in June.

"I'm going to feed him and play a crap-ton of video games with him," Amber Cameron said.

"He's going to have to go right back to work, but at least he can get a home-cooked meal now," Jennifer Lightsey said.

Nimitz crew member and six-year fleet veteran Rena Cheresposy was greeted at the pier by her husband of six years, Jeff, and the five children in their family, including 6-year-old Alex, who'd held up a sign for his "Momma Bear."

"The first thing we'll do is get something to eat," said Jeff Cheresposy, who moved to Marysville from Silverdale, Wash., a month ago. "Food always softens the heart."

Like Amber Cameron, Jeff Cheresposy also looked forward to a shortened commute for his spouse, whose trips to and from home he estimated should only take 13 minutes now, when her ship is in port. Rena Cheresposy likewise said that she was "happy to finally be in Everett."

"My wife and I spent a ton of money in the past few months just on gas and the ferry," said Michael Cole, a Nimitz crew member who now calls Arlington home. "Arlington is a great, beautiful town with amazing people. Everyone knows everyone. It's just like 'Cheers,' especially when you go to the bowling alley."

Cole plans on spending much more time with his wife, as well as with their new pets, which include chickens, turkeys, a couple of ducks and two dogs.

"So whether I'm at home or at work, I'l be staying pretty busy," Cole said.

Naval Station Everett Commanding Officer Capt. Michael Coury echoed U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen's characterization of Everett as the "sailor's choice" of Naval bases, while Rear Adm. Peter Gumataotao, commander of the Nimitz's Carrier Strike Group 11, praised the station and the surrounding community for their support of the ship's sailors and families.

"Naval Station Everett is a critical part of Everett’s personality, not to mention an important economic engine," Larsen wrote in a statement he issued for the event, which he was unable to attend. "We are happy to host the Nimitz and look forward to a strong relationship."

Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert, Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring and Tulalip Tribal Chair Mel Sheldon Jr. looked on as Gov. Christine Gregoire's husband, "First Mike," and Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson delivered their own remarks, with Mike Gregoire expressing pride in the Nimitz's arrival as a native of Everett, and Stephanson asserting that the Navy presence has enriched the diversity and vitality of the area.

"After 15 months of sea trials, we're here and ready to train and be deployed by the end of the year," USS Nimitz Commanding Officer Capt. Paul Monger said. "Our crew is dedicated and motivated by an intense desire to serve their country. These are your neighbors. Their kids go to your schools."

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