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Fliers are home for Christmas

The last few days were the longest for the families awaiting the homecoming of Scorpions Squadron VAQ-132 at NAS Whidbey.

The Prowler squadron had been away for six months, aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the Mediterranean.

The families geared up for homecoming Thursday, then Friday morning, but their loved ones didn’t arrive until Friday afternoon.

Lorraine Knapp, wife of Lt. Richard Knapp, looked significantly different from when her husband left. Then, she was one month pregnant. Now, she is eight months along.

Knapp missed the birth of their first child, Lauren, now 18 months, but this time they were at least able to keep in touch with e-mail.

“I would e-mail him pictures of my belly,” she said.

Lorraine and Richard Knapp have been married 13 years, and she is a veteran of the long absences, but for Monica Harris, it was the first time.

She and her husband, Lt. David Harris, have been married three years, but he missed their anniversary Dec. 18.

“Thank God for e-mail,” Harris said.

It became a regular routine to check for messages from the Mediterranean at least three times a day.

Harrris wore a small pair of gold wings on a chain, a gift from her husband.

The children and families were restless as they waited on the tarmac for the Prowlers to make the short hop from Spokane.

As the jets finally roared past, tipping their wings, a cheer went up, and it wasn’t long before the wait turned into hugs and tears.

The flyers reported the last leg of the trip home had been glorious.

“About 80 miles out the clouds broke and it was nothing but sunshine,” said Lt. Cmdr. Reggie Baker. “It was great.”

Most of the families said their only plan for the holidays was to stay home.

“We’ll be able to hang all the stockings this year,” Lorraine Knapp said.

While in the Middle East the Scorpions flew combat missions over Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and provided protection for coalition aircraft in Iraq’s southern no-fly zone.

The VAQ-132 support crew, close to 160 personnel, returned later Friday.

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