Commanding Officer Meghan Bodnar is greeted by her son Grady, who hasn’t seen her in 224 days, at Naval Station Everett on Thursday, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
EVERETT — 4-year-old Grady bought a operating begin Thursday morning when he noticed Commanding Officer Meghan Bodnar make her method off the united statesGridley.
He dropped the signal he and his brother Duncan, 9, had been holding for hours, “Welcome dwelling mommy,” as they waited for the 509-foot destroyer to return to its homeport at Naval Station Everett.
The ship, commanded by Bodnar and Government Officer Katie Whitman, deployed in January with Provider Strike Group Three, led by the Nimitz-class plane provider USS Abraham Lincoln.
A ship commanded by girls within the U.S. Navy is “fairly uncommon,” Bodnar stated. For households sending their daughters on their first deployment, it was fairly particular, too.
Jenny Figueroa, 21, waited anxiously on the pier for her fiancee Alexis Wighaman, 30, to roll in. The couple met in bootcamp and their relationship had been principally long-distance for the previous two years. However 4 days in the past Figueroa moved from Virginia to Everett.
“That was actually good,” she stated.
About 21% of the U.S. Navy’s 11,000 Floor Warfare Officers are girls, in response to a 2021 article from the Navy’s press workplace. Most management positions are nonetheless held by males.
“I had a feminine commanding officer once I was a lieutenant,” Bodnar stated. “And that’s really in all probability about it.”
Girls had been banned from serving on Navy submarines till 2010. And whereas girls have made up an growing fraction of U.S. army personnel in recent times, they’re about 28 % extra prone to depart the service early, with many citing “unsure work schedules, impacts of deployments on their household lives, (and) family-planning points akin to being pregnant,” in response to 2020 reporting in Stars and Stripes.
The commanding officer’s husband Kendall Bodnar stated he went via the entire phases of grief whereas his spouse was away. The youngsters stayed busy with taekwondo, Cub Scouts and swimming whereas mother was at sea. However their pleasure couldn’t be contained within the weeks main as much as her return.
“They’re very happy with her,” Kendall Bodnar stated, “and so they understand that you are able to do something in the event you work exhausting.”
Only a few hours later, the united statesSampson rolled in to the tune of “We Are Household” by Sister Sledge blasting from the ship’s grey exterior audio system: “I bought all my sisters with me.” A whole lot of members of the family and buddies cheered and waved.
The 2 Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers adopted comparable paths since their deployment final winter.
The Gridley labored alongside the U.S. Coast Guard in counter-smuggling operations within the Gulf of Oman. Its Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron aided in operations in France, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.
The Sampson left Everett in December. Whereas on their approach to the South China Sea, sailors stopped to offer support to Tonga after a tsunami. Within the sea, the crew helped salvage a downed F-35 from the united statesCarl Vinson.
The roughly 300 sailors on every ship participated in RIMPAC, the world’s largest worldwide maritime warfare train from June 29 to August 4. The train was attended by 26 nations, 38 ships, 4 submarines, over 170 plane and over 25,000 individuals.
Kathy Higgins clutched a bouquet of pink roses in opposition to her blue striped Levi’s shirt, squinting into the solar as she appeared for her daughter Koda Higgins-Corridor to return down the Gridley’s ramp.
The final time she noticed her daughter was once they drove to Everett from New Orleans early this yr. She stated they “took the flawed route.” They ended up driving via snowy nationwide forests in northern California and Oregon at night time.
“I’m questioning why don’t see anyone on the highway,” she stated, laughing, “as a result of they know higher.”
Kathy Higgins is an Military and Air Power veteran, so she was much less fearful and extra excited when she noticed off Koda Higgins-Corridor about eight months in the past.
“It’s a must to allow them to exit and enterprise the world,” she stated.
Mike Bencini, the united statesSampson’s commanding officer, stated after 18 years within the Navy he has seen virtually all the things. However this journey was particular. Their ship was the primary throughout the pandemic to return to port in Brisbane, Australia.
For a lot of on each ships, it was their a primary deployment.
“Every part that they’re experiencing is the primary time they’re doing it,” stated Whitman, the Gridley’s government officer.
The Saxena household took a six-hour night flight from Philadelphia so they may hug their son as he got here down the Sampson’s ramp. It was his first time coming dwelling from sea.
“I all the time inspired my son: Go on and be taught,” Sandeep Saxena stated. “Continue learning.”