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Abraham Lincoln Docks at Home Port

Aired May 6, 2003 - 14:11   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to turn our attention back to Everett, Washington. Naval Station Everett is the focus of our attention this afternoon, and Frank Buckley was rudely interrupted by yours truly. I apologize for that, Frank, but we had to move along.
You were in the midst of talking to some folks there and if you're still with them, why don't you just pick it right back up Frank.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we've lost Kurt (ph). There he is. Let's go back to him. He's still here and let's go back to Kurt Jenkins (ph) here.

Kurt (ph), we were -- you were in the middle of answering. We were asking you what about your service. You didn't launch the aircraft. You didn't fly the aircraft but you had a job to do. What do you want to tell people about how you served in this conflict?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well as I was saying, I was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) so I was basically making sure people got to eat so people on the flight line could do their jobs to launch the planes and recover the planes so the pilots could do their jobs basically make sure nobody went hungry.

BUCKLEY: And you did. We always had plenty of food and it was good and we appreciate it. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Hey, Frank.

BUCKLEY: Well, let's move along here and talk to someone else.

O'BRIEN: Can you ask him -- how was that last meal, that T-bone steak and shrimp combination that I read about. Was it good?

BUCKLEY: Well you know what? I've got to be honest with you. The enlisted guys got the T-bone steak and the shrimp and they made us eat in the officers' ward that night and we got chicken (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

O'BRIEN: Wait a minute. That's not the way it's supposed to work in the Navy.

BUCKLEY: And Kurt's (ph) laughing here because he knows how much chicken served. They served in fact more than 50,000 pounds of chicken. You probably know about six million ways to serve chicken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, well, there's like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) prepare chicken, only one way to serve it.

BUCKLEY: One way to serve it within the spoon across the serving line.

O'BRIEN: That's a lot of nuggets.

BUCKLEY: Let me ask you, when you're working in -- working in the mess unit, when you go home and you see the wife, who's doing the cooking tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will of course.

BUCKLEY: Because she deserves it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well no, she knows I can cook better than she can.

BUCKLEY: Whoa. OK. Well, thanks, Kurt (ph), we appreciate it. Have a good day.

All right. That's one of the guys here. Let's -- if you've got a second Miles we'll talk to one other person here.

O'BRIEN: Sure. Go ahead. Go ahead.

BUCKLEY: We've got even more ...

O'BRIEN: I'm kind of surprised (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I'm kind of surprised he has to cook but I guess if he loves it. I would be pretty sick of it of course. It's got to be hard after you've been cooking for 300 or so to do for one. Go ahead.

BUCKLEY: This is Richard West (ph) and Richard, you've got one, two, three, four, it looks like five bouquets of flowers. Who gets all these flowers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife, my mom and my daughter.

BUCKLEY: That's wonderful. How old is your daughter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She'll be seven May 26th.

BUCKLEY: Tell me what it's been like for you this past 10 months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just rough trying to get through it all, letters from home and seeing my daughter, my family's been helping a lot.

BUCKLEY: What -- do you have any gee; I want to do this the first thing when I get home kind of things?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sit down and lounge with the family, hold the family.

BUCKLEY: It's amazing. When you talk to sailors, they don't have these big extravagant plans. It seems like what they want to do is just spend time with the family, look at the grass growing, touch the grass with their feet. It's the simple things like that isn't it that you really miss?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a lot of things that some people take for granted that we don't have the privilege to enjoy out here.

BUCKLEY: Tell me what's shipboard life was like for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got a lot of friends on board so it goes by pretty quick but some nights sometimes it goes slow. It's real repetitious. It gets repetitious real quick over and over.

BUCKLEY: I got the sense just from my brief period on the Connie (ph) which is -- you know we love the Lincoln but the Connie (ph) was the ship that I was on over there. It's like Groundhog Day at times. You start the day, you don't even look at the calendar. You don't know what day it is at times and Miles was asking earlier, what is the typical day like? What was your typical day like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or seven o'clock at night, working all night, moving aircraft up and down the elevators all around the hanger bay getting ready for flight ops.

BUCKLEY: You're (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was seven o'clock at night not seven o'clock in the morning.


BUCKLEY: And what time did you -- did the lights go out for you when you finally got to put your head on the rack?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Around 8:30, 9 o'clock in the morning.

BUCKLEY: Very long days.


BUCKLEY: I'm holding you up here Mister so go ahead and get back in line. Thanks very much. We appreciate it.


BUCKLEY: All right. Miles, I don't want to get trampled by anybody else. I want to let that man go and you can see very long days and about ready to have some time with the family.

O'BRIEN: How does a human being sleep while there are cat launches underway and planes being trapped in those wires? You have got to be dog tired to sleep through that.

BUCKLEY: Well, you do and these guys are and some of the work that they do especially the guys, you know, who have some of the physical labor involved, not only are they putting in the hours but I mean they're literally carrying chains on the flight deck, doing things that, you know, require a great deal of stamina in all sorts of weather. Out there in the Gulf we experienced sandstorms, thunderstorms and they were out in it. These guys, let me tell you, they could sleep at night no matter what the noise condition because they were just exhausted and that's how they slept through it.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's go back down on the pier, Pier One it is where Kyra Phillips is standing by.

Kyra, who have you -- who have you run into?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well I've got some neat families here but there's one thing -- hey Miles, can Frank still hear the two of us?

O'BRIEN: I hope so. Frank, can you hear us?

PHILLIPS: Frank, can you hear us?

BUCKLEY: I can, yeah.

PHILLIPS: OK. Now Miles is asking about the sleep issue. You know I recommended ambient and you loved it.

BUCKLEY: I tried but it didn't seem to help me that much. In fact it knocked me out. Thanks.

PHILLIPS: That's right and Frank got a little upset with me because he didn't wake up the next morning. So we recommended other things like magnesium or melotonin. We got a lot of those from the pilots so we were able to sleep but needless to say, you do get wiped out Miles and you sleep really well.

Anyway on a much more serious note, just a little while ago you were listening to Jessica Lynch's brother, the young POW and I had to turn and ask Alissa (ph), those are -- as she got off the ship here, I was telling you about the interview with Jessica Lynch's brother and asking you to sort of take me back to when that did happen.

As a female, as a sailor serving on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, how did that impact you and other women on the ship when you heard about Jessica Lynch?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think as females we were pretty much terrified. I mean wishing -- you know hoping that everything would work out, glad it wasn't us. A lot of guys had a lot of admiration for all the troops that were in on the ground. You know we went out and we did -- we did a good job but we were striking from a distance and so we had that security that they didn't have and so just really grateful for their efforts, a lot of admiration for them.

PHILLIPS: You see young, beautiful, smart women like Jessica, like you, why did you join the Navy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why? Our country's great but I believe it's great because of the military. That's what keeps our freedom there and we all appreciate it but how many people really take the time to do something for it so something that I've done things that people can never say they have and it's something I'll take with me forever.

PHILLIPS: Here you are now surrounded by your family.

Mom, what do you think of your daughter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so proud of her and so excited to finally see her. OK. I shouldn't be talking.

PHILLIPS: Did you ever think your daughter would be serving in a war?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not in a war. I'm proud of her.

PHILLIPS: Now I know my mom panics with me being on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. OK. How did you stay calm and stay focused?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because she told me God will take care of me and I'll feel better if I know you're not too worried and so I know God'll always take care of her.

PHILLIPS: Has she always been a strong young girl?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely from day one.

PHILLIPS: That comes from mom. How did you raise her? Were you strict?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of patience, very strong willed and just wonderful.

PHILLIPS: Dad's shaking his head.

Dad, mom was not strict?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not at all, no way.

PHILLIPS: So I take it this is where you came in.


PHILLIPS: So you mean Alissa (ph) was spoiled?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to say that with her standing here. She's been working this bag (ph). She could probably whip me now. I'm not going to say that.

PHILLIPS: Hold on. You're carrying her bag. Is this your duty now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm dragging it. Yeah, I'm carrying it.

PHILLIPS: But is this pretty low maintenance for a woman? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. This is pretty heavy.

PHILLIPS: Sir, what do you think of your daughter and what she did?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very proud of her for what she did and I -- she believes in her country. She believes in the cause. She believes in freedom and that's why she did it and I'm very proud of her. I'm very proud of the whole bunch.

PHILLIPS: So as you were raising her, what do you think -- what is it about Alissa (ph) that she gets from you do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From me? Probably her orneriness I would think.

PHILLIPS: She's a tough girl.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. She can take care of herself.

PHILLIPS: Who else Alissa (ph) do we have here in the crowd?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My sister and her boyfriend, my brother and my sister in law, my uncle, my aunt, my cousins and my other aunt. She's trying to hide but you're out here.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk to your sister.

Are you proud of -- now is this baby sister?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is big sister.

PHILLIPS: Big sister.


PHILLIPS: I'm going to get in trouble for that.

So what do you think about what your sister did?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she's amazing. She's always been amazing so.

PHILLIPS: Did you keep in touch with her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, e-mails and things like that so yeah we kept in touch while she was gone. It was very cool.

PHILLIPS: How'd you keep her motivated?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. I don't think that I really probably had anything to do with that. I'll be honest with you.

PHILLIPS: All right. Well take us back to when Alissa (ph) was a little girl. You know was she well behaved? Was she ornery like your father says? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, she was nice to other people when we were kids.

PHILLIPS: What has the military done for your sister? Maybe I should ask you that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's done a lot for her. I think it really has. She's just -- she's a wonderful person and I think the discipline (UNINTELLIGIBLE) really brought that on her and she's just -- she's wonderful.

PHILLIPS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) family, thank you so much.

What are you going to go do now with your entire family here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going home to meet my new baby niece so I'm excited.

PHILLIPS: Today's your birthday?


PHILLIPS: You are never going to forget this birthday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a great birthday present. I get to come home.

PHILLIPS: How old are you?


PHILLIPS: Wow. What's next for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vacation. I'm getting married next month so that's next.

PHILLIPS: Can she take on anymore? Let's see. Operation Iraqi Freedom, her birthday, getting married.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was supposed to be in February but you know we had to reschedule because of the schedule so yes, going to get married and transfer to a new duty station (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

PHILLIPS: Congratulations. Thank you all very much. Thank you. And of course we've got to get Ben and his mom here quickly.

Mom, show us your jacket.


PHILLIPS: Now what does this say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miami's for Abe Lincoln CVN-72.

PHILLIPS: So what did you think when you saw your mom run over to you all dressed up like this? Do you think she's crazy? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not crazy. I know I love her to death though.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with him. Yes B.J. I'm so happy to have him home. Not too many could come along and no one else could come along with me but I'm just glad to be here myself and thank God for him allowing such a beautiful sun shiny day and all and you know and everybody being safe and we just having a good time welcoming our loved ones back home and thank you guys for allowing us to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

PHILLIPS: Pretty strong mom. What do you think you inherited from your mom? What did she do that made you such a disciplined young sailor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patience, that's the one thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the girls at my office, everyday.

PHILLIPS: How's this impacted your life? What are you going to tell mom about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well I mean truthfully I can say I think I've learned more this past 10 months than I have my whole life. You know it's just been a learning experience every single day, learn something new. So I'm just happy you know. Plus I'm happy that whenever I get -- you know e-mail is the best thing we've ever had. You just keep in touch with everybody you know. That's the best thing for that just keeping in touch with family members.

PHILLIPS: Glad you're home Ben. Congratulations. Thank you both so much for being with me. I'll let you hug some more and go have some fun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you. God bless.

PHILLIPS: Wait, you want to shout out here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well you know actually you know a lot of people out here calling us heroes and everything like that but you know aside from friends and family, I'd say in my mind my heroes are like police officers and everything because they allow me to go overseas and not have to worry about my family back home you know. So you know it's just something from my mind (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I've got to give a shout out to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) police officers and also the fire department and all that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)


PHILLIPS: Ben, thank you very much. That was a nice thought. Thank you very much. And it's true.

I mean I think ever since 9/11 Miles we have thought a lot more about our police officers and our firefighters and what they do for us to protect us, of course, and help protect our freedom. I mean it fits perfectly with what's happening today with regard to the military.

O'BRIEN: Kyra Phillips, we shouldn't take things for granted, should we.

Quickly before we get away I want to just touch base quickly with Ed Brownlee.

Ed, as you listen to all this, what thoughts go through your mind when you think back on your deployments, many moments that you saw there playing themselves out kind of an echo to your time in the Navy?

CAPT. ED BROWNLEE, U.S. NAVY (RET.): What comes to mind is that we really need to be proud of these young men and young women. You know we talked about the sacrifice. You know we see how emotional they are returning home but let's keep there, they're very well trained. They're bright. They're well educated and they're willing to, you know, do whatever it took to you know carry out the mission and do what they're directed to do, you know, just to -- and they represented the United States well when they were overseas.

So that's really what comes to mind and I just can't say enough that you know we send them abroad. We forward deploy these young men and young women and some of the best equipment. So you know my hat's off. It does bring back fond memories. I can remember when I would give journalists or educators tours of the ship and I always wanted to show off those young sailors and I just think what we're doing today, showing the world, you know these proud parents, these proud sailors, you know joining up with their families but they went through these 10 months and how you know we heard very little complaining from anyone who walked off that ship because you know they know that they did something that will be long remembered in serving this country. You know that's what really comes to mind.

O'BRIEN: Ed Brownlee, good words. Kyra Phillips, Frank Buckley, I'm told that the carrier Abraham Lincoln with its two nuclear reactors can produce enough electricity to supply a city of 100,000 but I think that group of people reunited on the pier can probably generate every bit as much energy at this moment as they're reunited after nearly 10 months of separation.


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