Lt. j.g. Troy Avery, the chaplain for Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 40, hadn’t shaved since he’d been on Guam about 24 hours earlier.
After a big hug, his 5-year-old daughter noticed.
“Dad,” she said, “your face is pokey.”
It didn’t stop her from giving him another hug, and it didn’t slow down her 3-year-old sister, Anna. They hadn’t seen their dad for eight months, and they had a lot of hugs to catch up on.
“It’s wonderful to be home,” he told them and his wife, Hajnal. “It’s absolutely fantastic. I have a bunch of beautiful ladies to come home to.”
Avery was one of about 150 Seabees from NMCB 40 who came home with the main party on Monday, July 16. Another 200 arrived with the advance party on the Fourth of July, and another wave would arrive later in the month.
The July 16 homecoming took place at noon under sunny skies and bright sunshine, something that wasn’t lost on the Seabees.
“The weather’s great!” said Construction Electrician 1st Class Bryce Stenholm as he hugged his wife, Yolanda, and sons James, 10, and Gregory, 14.
Equipment Operator Construction Recruit Dillon Francis was beyond words. He had just met the new love of his life: 7-week-old Ayla, his daughter.
“I can’t even describe it,” he said, tears running down his cheeks as he held Ayla and hugged his wife, Morgan. “It’s been a long deployment, and it’s great to be home, here with my family to support me.”
Latrece Goodwin was also ecstatic.
“This is the best moment ever!” she shouted as she searched the faces of the disembarking Seabees for her brother, Logistics Specialist 3rd Class Michkael Russell. She and 14 others were waiting for him, including his grandmother, mother, wife and kids. They didn’t have long to wait.
“This feels unreal,” Russell said after hugging everyone.
Reunited families piled into cars, looking to go home or have lunch. Single Sailors stepped into waiting buses.
But Equipment Operator 1st Class Matthew Kreamalmyer wasn’t going anywhere. His wife, Jessica, had come to pick him up with their three children, ages 5, 2 and 5 months, but the van she’d driven there wouldn’t start.
“The whole time he was gone it was working just fine,” she said, her voice far too calm given the situation. “Now it won’t even turn over.”
Kreamalmyer was just as composed.
“It’s just another day,” he said. “Stuff happens.”
But a rescue team wasn’t far behind. Builder 1st Class Johan Sanchez and Construction Mechanic 1st Class James Eaton quickly figured out a way to get Mom and the kids home in one car and tools and a new battery over to the van.
After eight months together, they weren’t about to leave their fellow Seabee stranded.
“He’s our Sea Daddy,” Sanchez said.