Loved ones reunite as USS Truman returns from groundbreaking mission

Loved ones reunite as USS Truman returns home

This piece originally aired on December 20, 2018

Coming Home follows our nation's service members as they return from deployment. The USS Harry S. Truman, an aircraft carrier, carries more than 5,000 sailors. They just returned from a groundbreaking military mission as the first carrier deployed as part of the Trump administration's so-called Dynamic Force Employment strategy. It involves warships sailing in unpredictable patterns to confuse potential enemies. The Truman was the first carrier in decades to monitor Russia from the Arctic Circle. Because of that unpredictability, families back home were kept in the dark for much of the deployment.


It's a once-in-a-lifetime view, as the massive Navy carrier pulls into port. The thousands of sailors streaming off the USS Harry S. Truman haven't seen their families in months.

Their history-making mission was a strategic success. But it was, at times, unsettling for the sailors and their families.
 
"CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-host Dana Jacobson and her team flew out to meet the sailors for their final days on board. From the flight deck – the size of four football fields – to the cramped hallways, the young men and women in uniform were reflecting on their journey.

For culinary specialist Devan Dyess, his first mission has been one of both excitement and sacrifice.

"So what's the hardest thing about being at sea and being away from family for so long?" Jacobson asked.

"I'd probably say missing my first child's birth," Dyess said.

Devan's wife, Taylor, went into labor in October.

"I called my wife, like baby you alright, everything good? She's like, 'Well, you know, I'm just having a baby,'" Dyess said. "I was actually very, very fortunate to be on the phone with her, during the birth. So every scream, growl, push I got to hear … What really changed my life, changed my perspective was I heard him whenever he first came out, whenever he cried. It actually brought tears to my eyes."

Navy paralegal Faith Guidry Jackson, also on her first deployment, is worrying about her children, too.

"Has it been harder on any one of the three?" Jacobson asked.

"My youngest, Marley, she's 4," Jackson said. "She has like these night terrors... she's like calling out for me but I'm not there."

Navy paralegal on staying strong for her young daughter during deployment

Faith's husband, Lavon Jackson, has been a solo parent to their three kids while working at a barbershop in Norfolk.

"It's been crazy. It's been hard," Lavon said. "They miss their mom more than anything 'cause they miss that feminine energy that she brings into the house."

The 24/7 nature of the ship keeps the sailors busy, leaving less time to think about those they've left behind. 

The Navy provides some comforts of home: from a barbershop to a library – even a Starbucks. But there are some things they can't provide.

Cryptologic technician Mike Geske and his fiancee, Connie Kulczycki, got engaged over the phone while they were apart. But he never officially popped the question with ring in hand.

"We were pulling into Portugal earlier than we expected and my parents somehow found a flight out to Portugal, and I told them, 'As long as you're coming here you might as well bring the ring with you,'" Geske said.

While anxious families at home wait for the last few days of deployment to pass, on the ship there's still work to be done, like getting the carrier's air wing off. 

Back on board, the final days turn to hours then to minutes. The family reunions and the overwhelming emotions that come with them begin.

"I'm a little nervous I guess," Jackson said.

"Nervous, anxious, excited," Dyess said.

As the sailors line up for the traditional manning of the rails, and Naval station Norfolk comes into view, home is finally within their grasp. On the pier, anticipation is building.

After months apart, those final minutes are agonizing for everyone – especially for a new dad like Dyess about to meet his son for the first time. Lavon Jackson doesn't even try to contain his excitement. Jackson's children didn't know that mom was coming home, her deployment now over.

Back on the pier, sailors step back on land, ready to swap Navy life for home life. For one young couple, a chance to start theirs with a marriage proposal.