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Aircrew families are 'breathing easy'

"Aircrew families 'breathing easy'For the first time in nearly two weeks the families of the EP-3E that had been crewmembers detained on the Chinese Island of Hainan are finally able to breath easy.Now that the crew is on its way home to Whidbey Island, the spouses in the local area are very thankful, said Chuck Niedzialkowski, chief of clinical services for the Fleet and Family Support Center, which has been providing counseling services to the Navy spouses.Niedzialkowski spoke in a news briefing Friday outside the Command Information Bureau set up at the Red Cross building near the main gate of the base.Describing the spouses' experience the past two weeks as a roller coaster of emotions, Niedzialkowski said the spouses received the greatest support from each other.The No. 1 request from the spouses right now is to have time to be with their loved ones, Niedzialkowski said. They might be ready, at a later date, to speak publicly about the experience and to thank the Oak Harbor community for its tremendous show of support, he said.The homecoming today is actually a bonus. They weren't due back until June, Niedzialkowski said. The crew left Whidbey Island the first week of March for a three-month deployment to Kedena Air Base, Japan.The wives are now experiencing joy and laughter, especially during a get-together Thursday night, where they got to swap stories of their initial calls from their husbands, Lt. Jon Conroe, Navy chaplain, said at the Friday news briefing.The wives also received some advice for the homecoming at the Thursday night gathering, Conroe said. They were advised of things to do and things to avoid during the first few weeks, such as treating the crewmembers normally, and not treating them like damaged goods.They haven't had control of their environment, when they were detained in China, Conroe said, so the wives should avoid trying to do too much for their husbands, Conroe said. The wives needs to avoid going overboard as far as providing comfort and making routine life too easy, he said.The Navy has reportedly authorized 30 days of convalescent leave for the returning crewmembers, to being immediately following today's homecoming.But, If they get bored, they will be welcomed back to work, Niedzialkowski said.You can reach News-Times reporter Christine Smith at csmith@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611 "

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