Jean Crowley won't forget her daughter Christin running towards her, after months of being away on a tour of duty in the Persian Gulf. The McLean resident had traveled with another daughter to see Christin's ship finally dock in Washington state. They had found each other through the crowd while talking on their cell phones.
"All of a sudden, I looked up and I saw Christin running towards me. It was emotional," said the mother.
With many members of the military returning to U.S. soil after serving in the war against Iraq, families and friends from across the area are experiencing or anticipating homecomings and joyous returns. Like other area families, this McLean family, who had lived in Vienna for many years, was ecstatic to see their daughter arrive safe and sound.
"Once we had a date, I was, of course, very excited, and the time went by really faster," said Christin Crowley, 34. "Before that, not knowing was so difficult."
Crowley served on the U.S.S. Camden, which was in charge of replenishing fuel, ammunition, parts and food to other ships. On busy days, they helped restock supplies on three or four ships in one day. By the time their tour was completed, they had replenished 250 ships.
Crowley had left the ship's Washington state base in July 22 for a six-month routine deployment. Right after Christmas, they were placed in a holding pattern near Australia. They had heard they were going back to the Persian Gulf.
"It really was a kind of a period of not knowing," Christin Crowley said.
Her family, meanwhile, while disappointed they couldn't spend Christmas with their daughter, grew more anxious as the war with Iraq seemed imminent.
"It just got very stressful with the war starting to heat up," said Christin's mother.
When all knew that Christin would serve in the Gulf, they sent e-mails and made phone calls until it became difficult to do so. Jean Crowley and Christin's father, Tom Johnstone, watched the news and read newspapers as often as they could. Jean Crowley's prayer group kept her daughter in their prayers, and would mention her in their meetings even before Jean could bring her up.
"We have a lot of faith in our family," Johnstone said. "I'm sure that sustained us through some difficult times."
Johnstone also had people asking him about his daughter when they found out she was serving in the war. A teacher at Chantilly High School asked about Christin's whereabouts whenever she saw Johnstone.
"She said, where's our girl this week?" said Johnstone of the teacher.
Christin Crowley found out in early April that she would be returning to the States. Her ship docked on May 5.
Since visiting her parents, she celebrated her dad's birthday, went to some family parties, visited her friends and sisters, did some errands and got her car worked on. When she returns to her base in Washington state, she'll wait for her next assignment, which she might not hear about until this fall.
"It's been nice, catching up with everybody," Christin Crowley said.