Unlike the many the Air Terminal at Naval Air Station North Island has this year, it boasted a much more blissful occasion Tuesday— homecoming.
More than 250 sailors of Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron (MSRON) 9 returned home to overjoyed families after a seven-month deployment to the Middle East. There, they provided maritime security in amphibious areas and harbors and, according to a U.S. Navy statement, also escorted ships and valuable assets.
Though there were over 50 families present to greet MSRON-9, for many sailors, Coronado is not home. These sailors are reservists from three units–Boat Detachment Alpha from Whidbey Island, WA, Boat Detachment Charlie from Portland, OR, and Security Detachment Delta from Spokane, WA.
Speaking on behalf of the Oregon unit, Ombudsman Kathy Hoffman said, “We have some [reservists] out of Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas and Montana.” They fly to Portland for their drill weekends and other trainings.
Families traveled from near and far to Coronado because no distance could stop them from giving their sailors that first "welcome home" hug.
“Families come from everywhere,” said Andi Moshier, spouse and ombudsman for MSRON-9 out of Whidbey Island, WA. “When you have a reserve unit that’s spread out across the entire United States, the military community pulls together really tightly at homecoming. So we’re excited to have all our families here. You’ll see families here from Alaska, Michigan and North Carolina. We run the gamut.”
For these families who will have to travel back to their hometowns, they said Coronado, a close-knit military town, was the perfect place .
“It’s just the community,” explained Autumn Stockwell, spouse and ombudsman for MSRON-9 out of Oak Harbor, WA.
“It’s the people and how they greet you. It’s that there are so many bases in such a small area and that you can’t walk down the street and not run into somebody in uniform. In some of our members’ locations, it’s not like that,” she said of Coronado.
Navy wife Rebecca Middlman and her daughter, Christina Quijano, echoed the same sentiment. “You feel like you’re part of the military family when you’re down here,” Middlman said. They are from a small town outside of Sacramento and said getting through their first deployment was lonely at times.
And for the returning service members, who may not work on a large naval base every day, landing at a big base with other sailors there to greet them and say thank you bolsters a sense of pride. It boosts their morale, said Hoffman.
Retired Capt. George Ready welcomed home his son, Capt. Scott Ready, the commanding officer of the entire unit. For the elder Ready, Coronado had a more personal connection. As a retired pilot, he flew Navy planes out of North Island. He also met his wife on the island 53 years ago. The couple traveled from Kansas City to see old friends and, of course, welcome back their son.
As soon as the plane carrying MSRON-9 was visible in the horizon, the families started cheering and the anticipation was almost palpable. They proudly waved their flags and signs. One family with five children awaiting their mother, IT Leslie Gilligan, waved a banner with hand-sewn squares illustrating what each family member had accomplished during the seven months. One square had "ABC" and "123" sewn on it because the youngest, Skylar, had started kindergarten and reading. Skylar said she would show her mom how much she had learned.
After each sailor disembarked the plane and walked into the receiving area, smiles and hugs spread quickly. Families were reunited, and each described their emotions as the greatest feeling ever.
With a successful deployment safely behind them, the families and loved ones could now look forward to spending several days in Coronado together before heading back to their respective homes.