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Families welcome Lancers home

Monday afternoon, thoughts of diapers, cars making odd noises and new homes filled a group of women’s thoughts. They didn’t think about dangers EA-6B aircrews and support people face when conducting flight operations from an aircraft carrier. Now their thoughts centered on only the next few hours when VAQ-131 Lancers flew home to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

“Libby’s been trying hard to walk,” Lisa Edgarton said.

She, 10-month-old Libby and flight-suit clad Nathan, two-and-a-half, were waiting for Lt. Cmdr. Dave Edgarton to swoop in on a radar-jamming jet.

Other women commented on Lisa’s tiny figure.

“With two kids and Dad gone, I don’t have time to eat,” she said.

Nathan was ready for his dad to arrive. The boy had been promised the first slice of welcome home cake if he kept his fingers out of the curls of icing.

Evan Richards, 11 months, had developed several new tricks — sitting alone, pulling up — during his father’s five-month absence.

Tracie Richards, a registered nurse, discovered the single parenting pressures of deployment. She jettisoned her nursing position at a local pediatrician’s office for the mommy track.

She had no idea how her son would react to his father’s arrival.

“I hope Evan doesn’t hurt Dad’s feelings,” she said. “But after a few day’s bonding, everything will be fine.”

Hannah Haar, 3, wasn’t thrilled with the homecoming commotion.

“She wants to know why all these people are here and why her daddy isn’t here,” her mom, Tavey Haar, said.

During the past few days Hannah had repeatedly informed her mother what would happen when the wavy-haired girl spied her father.

“Hannah’s said over and over, ‘I’ll run and give him a big hug’,” Tavey said, beaming.

Maureen Coury wasn’t concerned, anymore, that her car was promising to break.

“It’s been making strange noises for a few days,” she said. “But it made it this far and after today, it’s not my problem.”

She said this deployment had been different and longer than expected but everyone was happy with the work VAQ-131 members put into tsunami relief efforts at Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

Almost 90 percent of the squadron volunteered to go ashore and help relief efforts, Cmdr. Michael Coury, VAQ-131’s commanding officer, said.

“If people weren’t assisting with carrier operations, they were loading food, water and medical supplies,” he said.

While regular carrier operations were suspended during relief efforts, Coury said planes, crews and support personnel were sent to a base in Thailand to continue flight training.

“It was a long deployment, but worthwhile,” Nikki Williams, wife of Cmdr. Ted Williams, said while waiting in Hangar 10.

“We were all glad the carrier could go help.”

Once the jets taxied to the hangar, families barely restrained themselves from storming the flight line.

“He’s getting a mullett,” Lt. Kelly Richards laughed at Evan’s red hair that curled just past the baby’s neck.

Lt. Mike Strauss reconnected with wife Amanda before heading to the new home that had been purchased in his absence.

Besides celebrating a new home, the Strausses would celebrate their first anniversary — almost two months late. The couple didn’t seem to care about the delay Monday, they were together again.

More Lancer families, and families of sailors stationed with Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department, reunited Tuesday afternoon when airlift flights arrived from San Diego, Calif., after crews came ashore from the USS Abraham Lincoln.

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