Families reunite as carrier Bush returns to Norfolk

By Mary Beth Cleavelin
The Virginian-Pilot


Lisa Carpenter gave up on sleep around 4 a.m. Saturday after tossing and turning for hours. The coming reunion dominated her thoughts. The hugs, the rushed chatter, the catching up after nine months apart.

The chief petty officer didn’t miss any major holidays or first steps while she was deployed on the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush, but she wasn’t home for her son’s 10th birthday or her wedding anniversary. Those weren’t what bothered her the most.

Each night at dinner, she was reminded that she wasn’t at her own table talking with her family. She longed for that everyday interaction.

She wasn’t alone.

Her husband, Brent, thought about his wife every morning when he poured a fresh cup of coffee.

Joey Parish, their son, missed her on nights when he needed homework help. His dad usually takes the math problems, but Mom is best in social studies.

Brent had to step in where the couple normally shared responsibilities, like housework. He even hired a maid service while Lisa was gone.

“It’s almost a year apart. It really makes you appreciate the little things,” he said.

The Carrier Strike Group deployed on Feb. 15 and participated in operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

While the Bush and the 5,000 sailors in its group were busy carrying out the first strikes on the Islamic State group in June, Joey had his first baseball season. The family talked on the phone when the ship pulled into Bahrain, Oman and other ports. They shared daily emails.

“Joey was 2½ when I was deployed last, so it’s great that he was old enough this time to email me himself,” Lisa said.

On Saturday, Joey and Brent waited behind a makeshift barrier. They stood for hours as they watched the carrier inch toward the pier.

They couldn’t decide whether this was Lisa’s fourth or fifth deployment. It was her final one. Of that, they were sure.

A Michael Bublé song played from the ship as it pulled in.

They sent a text to Lisa with directions about how to find them in the crowd. Joey held up the sign he made. Lisa was in a line of sailors looking for loved ones.

She spotted her family and ran toward them.

“Here come the water works,” Brent said.

She hugged Joey, stepped back to look at him and pulled him close again.

Once the greetings were over, Lisa asked for a steak.

“We can make that happen,” Brent said.

Lisa slipped her arms around both of them. They disappeared into the crowd.

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