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Families welcome home Nimitz
EVERETT — Marysville’s Laikyn Drake was one week old when her daddy finally came home.
Laikyn’s mom, Ashley Drake, arrived at Naval Station Everett on the morning of Dec. 16 with her other daughter, 5-year-old Riley, in tow, as they waited to greet Ashley’s husband, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Drake, with the return of the USS Nimitz from its extended deployment.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier had left Everett on March 30 for what was originally planned as a six-month deployment, which turned into nine months when the Nimitz and its strike group were called upon to remain in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility in response to what the U.S. Navy deemed a tense international situation.
This left local moms like Ashley Drake holding the fort without their husbands for a bit longer than they’d expected.
“The Navy family is a great support system,” said Ashley Drake, who’s been married to Ryan for six years, with Ryan serving in the fleet for nearly two of those years. “I was also able to lean on my friends and family back home in Oklahoma. I came back to the area in August, because I thought he’d be back by October. It was sad for us when we heard that he’d be staying out for a while longer, but we knew we could handle it.”
Drake acknowledged that raising their 5-year-old daughter on her own in the meantime has been her biggest challenge, “since she didn’t understand why Daddy had to be so far away for so long,” but the two parents had already planned to stay at home, order takeout and simply spend their first day back together as a family.
“It’s just good to be home,” said Ryan Drake, who apologized to his daughter Riley for not being able to pick her up and hug her right away, since he was still loaded down by carrying his bags. Although Riley had a few tearful moments as she waited for her daddy on the pier, she was comforted by her mother and Arlington’s Andrea Daniels, the “New Mommy” coordinator for the Nimitz, who was waiting for her own husband, Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Daniels.
“I have twin 4-year-old boys and a 1-year-old daughter, but I couldn’t bring them today and coordinate things for the new mommies,” Andrea Daniels said, as she held up a sign informing her husband, “I can’t wait to lift with you,” since the couple shares an enthusiasm for fitness, and had planned to visit Pilchuck CrossFit in Arlington. “The extension was a bummer, but this deployment actually went by really fast for us.”
For Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Blanton, who also lives in Arlington, those nine months felt a lot longer, not in the least because he spent most of them waiting to meet his now 6-month-old daughter Bailey.
“It’s overwhelming,” Charles Blanton said, as he kissed Bailey on the forehead and embraced her mother, Kate Blanton, who met him at the pier with her parents, Tom and Linda Briggs.
“He wasn’t there to see her being born, but he was able to watch it on Skype when he was in port,” Kate Blanton said. “It’s been stressful without him, but thankfully, she’s a very good baby.”
“She’s her daddy’s baby in that regard,” laughed Linda Briggs.
Although Arlington’s Jennifer Bueso is not a new mom, since her son Benny is 3 and her daughter Lydia is 8, this was nonetheless only the second deployment of her 11-year marriage to Petty Officer 2nd Class Holmer Bueso.
“I got lucky,” Jennifer Bueso said, while her children held up signs on the pier for their daddy. “I just have to be as independent and positive as I can be while he’s gone, and have faith in God that he’ll see me through.”
Because of the deployment’s extension, Jennifer had to complete the process of buying a new home without Holmer this June.
“We were sending paperwork back and forth, from ship to shore,” Jennifer Bueso said. “He hasn’t even seen the new house yet.”
“And he needs to help me clean my room,” Benny Bueso said, drawing laughter from his mother.
After Holmer Bueso helped his kids take care of their chores, he and his wife planned to enjoy some Chicken Alfredo, which was their wedding entree and has become the traditional meal for his homecomings.
“He also wanted us to wait to put the Christmas lights up until he came back,” Jennifer Bueso said. “He’s looking forward to catching up on his movies and telling our kids stories about his time at sea.”