A day before the USS Theodore Roosevelt returned home from a historic 189-day tour of duty — including a record breaking 159-days straight at sea — a sailor aboard the aircraft carrier told his story in this e-mail to staff members of the Fox News Channel, with whom he'd been corresponding:
I wanted to give you one my favorite quotes: "Courage equals fear with prayer!"
The reason I am coming home tomorrow is the direct result of many prayers from many different folks from all over this great country.
I left Sept. 19 with tears and strong emotions inside. I knew as I kissed my wife goodbye at home, that I was leaving on an adventure to the unknown. I put on my uniform that day, looked into the mirror and turned to my wife and said, "I am scared and nervous." But with tears in her own eyes she whispered that I have the prayer of a grateful country behind me!
I hugged each of my step-kids and said goodbye. I saw the scared look on the face of my youngest stepson and told him to stay strong for mom, that he was the man in charge of the house now and that I was counting on him to be there for her. I got into my car very numb, knowing, as my wife and I drove to the ship on base, that this would be the final moments with her.
It was a terrible feeling as we drove closer to the ship. I was filled with all sorts of emotions. Everything was happening so fast! My head was spinning, knowing that we were getting underway to head straight over to the other side of the planet. I knew that I was leaving a lot of loose ends at home. But I looked into (my wife's) eyes and saw that she was very proud of me. She smiled and squeezed my leg to let me know that she knew how I felt. Once we exited the car, she held me tight and whispered into my ear: stay alive, stay strong, the prayers of a nation are behind me as we journey into the war against terrorism.
That gave me courage that very instant.
As I write this to you, I am overwhelmed with emotions. I am so grateful that we have survived this tour of duty. I am happy that we went over there and for 159 days straight kicked butt! We answered America's call for vengeance! I took this journey very personally! I watched the (terrorist attacks) live, like everyone else, and was broken down with emotions of sadness and of overwhelming grief. I felt for the families that lost loved ones that fateful day.
Those emotions changed as soon as I got on board the ship the day we left. They changed to anger and the wanting of exacting a terrible revenge for the people who lost their lives. I focused all my energies into my job and constantly reminded my troops of the reason why we were there. I held up many photos of the (attacks) from both New York and Washington, D.C., along with the photos of the plane that went down in rural Pennsylvania (near my home) to show my troops (why we should have) pride ... in doing our jobs.
This cruise was personal for me. I achieved all of my goals, including receiving my Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist pin. I watched every Thursday as our ship showed the footage of the (damage) that we inflicted upon the Taliban. Our ship performed in the best way possible. We represented all Americans while we were over there. Our motto for the cruise was "Let's Roll."
That was our rallying call. The World Trade Center flag was our inspiration the whole cruise. There was many a day I would look out over the outside of Vultures' Row and see the flag waving in the wind. That is why on the 27th day of March I will be walking across the bow of my ship and down the pier to greet my loved ones, waving the biggest American flag that you have ever seen — a flag that was given to me by a pen pal who was in Vietnam.
I want the world — especially the terrorists — to know and see that (the terrorists) screwed up in trying to destroy us. They failed. They failed miserably. All they did was wake a sleeping giant who has a big stick and is not afraid to use it. All they did was reunite a nation with a resolve to destroy them utterly for what they dared to do on Sept. 11.
I close with these final words to my e-mail pen pals and Fox News team members: Thank you so much for all your cares and concerns. All that we sailors did on this great ship was just what we were trained to do. This is where I was meant to be. This is what I have been training for my whole naval career.
I am proud to be a Navy man, proud to be a good husband and most importantly, I am proud to be an American...this homecoming will be for the record books along with our time spent at sea.