USS HARRY S. TRUMAN AT SEA
Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Dustin Boudreau has a 1998 RMS Suzuki motorcycle he's been waiting nearly eight months to ride. Soon, he'll be able to take his beloved sports bike on Route 58 through Suffolk once again. The USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) is on its way home.
Riding his motorcycle is one of the simple pleasures Boudreau is looking forward to most when the aircraft carrier pulls into Norfolk Naval Station on Wednesday.
"Seeing my wife, riding my motorcycle. All the little things, you forget how important they are until you get out here. Sleeping in your own bed. ... Cooking, eating good food again. Even driving sometimes. You just get in your car and drive," Boudreau said.
The strike group is nearing the end of an eight-month deployment that started Nov. 16. It was supposed to last just seven months, but the Navy extended the Truman's deployment 30 days so the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) could arrive on scene in the Mediterranean Sea before the Truman left to keep pressure on the Islamic State group.
"The extension has been harder on the families than it has been on us," Commander of Truman Carrier Strike Group Rear Adm. Bret Batchelder said.
"Each one of the sailors out here raised their right hand swore an oath before God to do what they do,” Batchelder said. “Our families didn't, but they do it anyhow. So we appreciate that a lot."
The Virginian-Pilot spoke to sailors aboard the Truman last month, when it was originally scheduled to be back at Norfolk Naval Station. Some have missed birth of children, weddings and family vacations because the deployment was extended. Each yearned to see loved ones.
"My wife and kids – they're strong,” Chief Petty Officer Cesar Cobossabano said. “They miss me, I know I miss them. But having to handle everything back home by themselves is hard. For me it's kind of easy. It's my home. I eat here, I shower here. So everything's provided for me here. Not for them. My wife does a lot of things to take care of the house, the kids."
The pace of operations aboard the Truman has kept sailors busy. Aircraft aboard the ship set a Navy record for the number of bombs dropped in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. But it also takes a toll on the crew.
"Everyone's looking forward to getting home," Commander of Carrier Air Wing 7 Capt. David Little said. "When we're out here, the personal sacrifices that each and every one of our Sailors in the carrier strike group are making, are significant."
Little said he's most looking forward to spending time with his family and friends, fishing in Virginia Beach and firing up his grill. Many crew members said they just wanted to experience things most people take for granted, like taking a walk around the neighborhood, seeing trees or going to a convenience store for a favorite snack.
Here's a sample of what sailors aboard the ship said they're looking forward to most about coming home.