Norfolk, Va. – Like so many other Navy wives, Mary Johnson prepared herself to spend Thanksgiving without her husband, Machinist Mate 2nd Class Patrick Johnson.
“It’s hard, because it’s the first Thanksgiving being away from him, having him deployed. This is the first Christmas he was ever going to miss since we’ve been married and since our daughter was born,” said Johnson.
Little did Mary know that as she and her two kids, Grace and Levi, enjoyed their turkey early on Wednesday night, they would get some unexpected news through Facebook.
“Tell me I’m reading this right…he is coming home early!” said Johnson. “The Ike’s coming home early, after just a couple months of being gone!”
So what does Mary owe this stroke of good luck to?
If you can believe it, mechanical problems aboard a different aircraft carrier – the USS Nimitz – caused the change in the deployment schedule.
The Nimitz was supposed to leave in January to relieve the Eisenhower from its duties in the Persian Gulf, but the Navy made the call Wednesday that the Nimitz was not yet fit for sea.
For the Eisenhower to pick up the Nimitz’s slack, the carrier still needed to get its flight deck resurfaced.
In order to get the repairs done, they will come home to Norfolk in December for two months, before heading back overseas.
“I was jumping up and down, calling everybody in my phone saying, ‘He is coming home for Christmas!’ Everybody is ecstatic,” said Johnson. “They were supposed to be gone for a 9-10 month deployment this time, so this break in the middle is great. It really helps to renew everybody’s spirit on the ship.”
Mary, though, is most excited for her kids.
“He has been gone for 5 months and missed my son’s birthday as well as the day he started walking. My son’s going to be a year and a half, so now my husband will be home to watch him run around and terrorize the house,” said Johnson.
Mary and Grace were even planning on sending a tiny Christmas tree overseas, the least they could do if Daddy couldn’t be home for the holidays. But now he will have an even bigger tree in person.
“He is very excited, can’t wait to see the kids, can’t wait to see land again,” said Johnson. “Greatest Thanksgiving ever to get that kind of news.”
Normally, the U.S. has two ships in the Persian Gulf at all times, but because of the Nimitz repairs, the Navy is breaking this rule for December.
In January the Norfolk based USS Harry S. Truman will be heading to the Persian Gulf, ahead of the Eisenhower’s return.
The delays to the Nimitz forces the Navy to temporarily abandon the requirement to keep two aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf. The USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, currently deployed, will be the sole carrier in the region. Stennis departed its homeport of Bremerton in August. The Navy plans to send the USS Harry S Truman to the region early next year to restore the two-carrier presence.