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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Happy Homecoming

Aired May 6, 2003 - 13:37   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now, let's get back to the Lincoln, Naval Station Everett, and one Kyra Phillips, who, when last we saw her, was shamelessly showing cute babies on television. And we just can't get enough of it, Kyra.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're still looking at them.

That's right. Actually, they have just moved all the new moms and that brand-new babies up to the line here. We're talking minutes away, that these moms and their babies are going to meet dad for the very first time.

And they're getting -- we have some shy mothers so I'm going to sort of try and move along the crowd here and talk to some first mothers -- I'm going to let Greg (ph) stay where he is and I'll try to move through the crowd there. As you can imagine, the security is tight. That's OK. We're just glad we get to be here with you.

I'm going to come down to this new mom. Hopefully Greg will be able to get a shot through here. All right, tell us your baby's name. Tell us -- oh, they're getting ready to go. They're starting to move forward.

What's your baby's name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jacob (ph)

PHILLIPS: Jacob How old is he?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two-and-a-half months.

PHILLIPS: And he's never seen daddy, is that right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.

PHILLIPS: So what do you -- what do you think, when you first see your husband, what are you going to tell him his responsibilities are?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what? I don't even think I'll have to tell him. He just knows. He's that good.

PHILLIPS: Congratulations. We're going to try and find you, as you hook up with your husband, OK?

This is little Jacob right here. Oh, he's so precious! UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: So who does he look like, mom?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Daddy. Definitely daddy.

PHILLIPS: I don't know. He's got your blue eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, he has my blue eyes. But everything else is daddy, definitely.

PHILLIPS: So how did dad find out about the new baby? How did he know when he was born?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I had to call the Red Cross and they get a hold of him, send him a message. And then as soon as -- as long as it takes to get the message, then he gets to call. So I got to talk to him, but...

PHILLIPS: And what do you tell him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just told him -- well, he knew he was born, and he was so excited. You know, asking, What does he look like? How much does he weigh? Just the usual, you know, if he didn't get to be there, so kind of questions.

PHILLIPS: Do you think he's nervous about being a new dad?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think so, but I think he'll do a great job. I know he will. He's great with kids and he'll be awesome.

PHILLIPS: What did he do on the ship?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He works on the hangar bay. His specific job, I'm not quite sure to be totally honest with you.

PHILLIPS: Well believe me, the jobs in the hangar bay are very busy. He's probably doing a little bit of everything.

How did you pick the name Jacob?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, we were going to name him Jaden (ph) and it just didn't -- it just didn't fit. So when he was born, a couple weeks before he was born, we decided Jacob, so..

PHILLIPS: Well, he's precious. Congratulations. All right.

I'm going to move along with you new mom. Tell me your -- tell me your baby's new name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bryce (ph).

PHILLIPS: Bryce. And how old is Bryce?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two-and-a-half months old.

PHILLIPS: I don't know what these fathers are going to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't either.

PHILLIPS: How did you hang in there for 10 months?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Family. Lots of family, so...

PHILLIPS: Tell us about Bryce. Is he like dad?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So far, he thinks he's a phone, but yes.

PHILLIPS: all right, I'll let you get ready to find dad.

O'BRIEN: Kyra, I want to tell you, the cheer is -- I think the first kiss line is coming off.

Ed Brownlee, tell us about that tradition.

It's kind of a lottery, is that how it goes?

CAPT. ED BROWNLEE, U.S. NAVY (RET.): Yes, usually ships will sell tickets as a way of raising money. And The purpose is to -- you know, so -- not just the -- those with newborns or -- it gives other people a chance to be one of the first off the ship. This is one of those traditions like allowing newborn fathers off the ship. And, you know, anchor pools the night before the sea, who can come the closest to when you actually (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the ship. So there are a little traditions that are taking place in front of our eyes.

O'BRIEN: A little wagering on these vessels -- Ed.

BROWNLEE: I won't say wage, I would say just a friendly game of chance.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you this, Ed. Is -- obviously, there is excitement here. But is there a little bit of anxiety that goes with this if you've been away for so long?

What I'm talking about is just kind of reconnecting with your family and friends. You've been gone for so long, and they sort of -- they move on in ways with their life because they have to.

BROWNLEE: Yes, there is, there is a little anxiety. If you can imagine a family together, and then you pull one of the two parents away from it for six months that family learns during that time frame how to survive without that spouse or that parent, you know, who's away on a 10-month or 6-month deployment. And so those first couple weeks back from deployment, you have to really move easily to try to reintegrate yourself into that family structure. So there is some anxiety. And things have changed, kids have grown, your teenagers have become a little bit more independent of dad or mom. So, these sailors still have to move very slowly in reintegrating themselves. But I would also say there's a great system the navy has in place to help both the families who were left behind, and the sailors who were forward deployed to work on that integration. You have counselors and the whole thing. O'BRIEN: You have counselors. As a captain, do you often get into these sorts of issues?

BROWNLEE: Yes, you do. You want to make sure the sailors are focusing on the job at hand. It's a tough job at sea so it forces the captain to get involved. And He has (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who represents the command, while the command's out to sea, who kind of takes care of the problems families may have while their spouse is away, or their family member's away at sea. So there are organizations, not only counselors but an (UNINTELLIGIBLE) program, that's been proved highly successful over the years.

O'BRIEN: And is there actually counseling on the ship if a sailor gets, you know, home sick, for lack of a better term?

BROWNLEE: Yes there is. On a ship the size of the carrier, there's a chaplain on board where sailors can go to. There's also their leadership. Usually, that's the first avenue if they have any problems with home sickness or even a problem at home. A young sailor can approach his senior petty officer or his chief petty officer or even his division officer, for assistance or advice, and they can usually direct them in the right direction. Because the navy has been deploy deploying for over 200 years, there are mechanisms set up to help families rejoin after these long deployments.

O'BRIEN: It's -- these are amazing pictures. I don't care how many times you see these. There is compelling as they are the first time you see them.

Frank Buckley's on board the Lincoln, somewhere, beneath that 4 1/2 acre deck, I believe. First, everybody has flowers. We talked about this when the Mobile Bay came in a week or so ago. I'm sure there's many wondering if there's an FTD florist on board the Lincoln.

Where do they get the roses?

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN ANCHOR: These are the roses you're talking about here. This is the new dad line that, right now, is getting off the ship. It's a long line, 150 sailors are new dads on this deployment. And The roses that they have, we saw them come aboard in San Diego. In this case, they brought them aboard in San Diego in these big boxes, put them in refrigeration on board here, and then the sailors can buy some roses and take them off.

As you can see, many of them are, in fact, taking advantage of that. And now on the shore, some of those emotional reunions -- I can't see it but I assume they're taking place right now. The first kissers are first, followed by the new dads, 150 new dads.

O'BRIEN: We're seeing some new dad reunions right now.

Kyra Phillips, is not far from new dad central.

Kyra, what are you seeing there?

PHILLIPS: Actually, we're down here for the first kissers. You meant Samantha (ph) here on the port side with us and of course Eugene (ph), he was with Frank up on the ship.

All right, how was that first kiss, guys?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was all right.

PHILLIPS: Just all right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was waiting a while.-

O'BRIEN: Kyra, ask him to rate it on a scale of one-to-10.

PHILLIPS: Miles want you to rate it on a scale of one-to-10.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll have to give her a 20.

PHILLIPS: What do you think, Samantha, how was it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was wonderful. I've waited for it for a long time.

PHILLIPS: You're welcome to try it again if you want, no pressure or anything.

BUCKLEY: (OFF-MIKE).

PHILLIPS: I'm hearing Frank -- are you up there with Frank on the ship now?

O'BRIEN: No, go ahead. That's just a little audio glitch there. Go ahead.

PHILLIPS: OK, what the heck. OK, you're finally together. We got to talked to you here on ship. We talked to you here on the port. You were getting all emotional. Your mom was here.

You didn't even know your mom was going to be here did you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I didn't.

PHILLIPS: Well, she didn't want to interfere on the kiss.

So what do you think, here you go you have got Jordan (ph), you've got Cody, you've got Samantha.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can't wait to get home now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lets go have our sushi. Everybody's been dying. We all eat sushi and we couldn't do it. Darn it.

PHILLIPS: We don't want to keep you any longer. You enjoy your family time. Congratulations and welcome home. All right. We've got more first kisses over here.

Hey, guys, how was the first kiss?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good. PHILLIPS: How does it feel to be home?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amazing. I mean, I didn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I was like, oh, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I'm home.

PHILLIPS: I think your heart is beating. And so is yours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're excited. At least he's back home and stuff so yes.

PHILLIPS: What's next?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, go eat some real food. That's all I want to do right now.

PHILLIPS: What can't you wait to have?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that's what I really want right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, that's where we're heading.

PHILLIPS: Yes, you're not cooking though?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No I am not cooking. No.

PHILLIPS: I put enough on your mind. Congratulations, both of you. All right. My goodness, more first kiss winner. I saw you lay it on her.

How was it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was great. It was nice to get home and finally able to get it.

PHILLIPS: How long has it been since you kissed your wife?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 9 1/2 months.

PHILLIPS: How was it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good. Like the first time.

PHILLIPS: How many raffle tickets did you buy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I bought 20 tickets during the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) federal campaign to try to win this first kiss off the ship. It was $20 well spent.

PHILLIPS: Take me -- I saw you running off the ship there. I saw you guys match eyes, going towards each other.

What was going through your mind?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all, it was, OK, where are we supposed to get together at? And then it was, come on over here, honey, I want to lay one on you. I've been waiting a long time for this, so come on over.

PHILLIPS: When you saw your husband -- I see you getting tears in your eyes. I know this is amazing for you.

What were you thinking, when you first saw him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to hug him, it's been a long time. Nine and half months is like forever. You know, it's like...

PHILLIPS: Congratulations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much.

PHILLIPS: You guys enjoy. OK.

Hello, hey -- Oh, my goodness, how are you, sir?

This is the -- oh, what a pleasure. Nice to meet you.

I'll introduce you to everybody on CNN.

This is the CO of the ship, Commanding Officer Kendall Card.

How are you feeling, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feeling awesome, wonderful to be back here, Kyra. It's just absolutely terrific. And I can't say enough about the job these folks did. It's great to be home, get them home to their families today.

PHILLIPS: It was just a number of months ago that you and I were talking during Operation Iraqi Freedom, did you think this moment would ever come, when you got to come back and just see your wife and be with your family?

Did it ever seem like it was coming?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, for me, it was short, but for a lot of people, it was pretty tough deployment. But I'll tell you, they met every challenge, did an awesome job. It's the folks back here, these are the great American heroes back here that really made it happen for us. They allowed us -- they took care of things, allowed us to take care of our job out there on the Gulf. And we met the challenges because they met the challenges here. It's great stuff.

PHILLIPS: Wife of the CO, we know behind every good man is a pretty incredible woman.

Mrs. Card, I got to ask you, how did you keep everybody just motivated back here at home and keep -- just keep being that positive attitude?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mainly just keeping them informed of everything going on. We had so many great people heading up the homecoming committee, helping us do everything that it was amazing, back here.

PHILLIPS: How did you maintain your strength?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had a lot of family support. He's great support too. So we're very proud of them.

PHILLIPS: What is the most amazing thing about your husband, as you look back at 10 months. I mean this is the man who was commanding officer of the USS Abraham Lincoln for Operation Southern Watch, Operation Enduring freedom and then Operation Iraqi Freedom. Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh yes. It's amazing. Every time I think back on it he's amazing. The whole crew did a great job and the families back here were great.

PHILLIPS: So how did you two meet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were next door neighbors. I married the girl next door, west Texas, absolutely.

PHILLIPS: Aw, look at that. Where in west Texas?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little town called Fort Stockton. Yes, President Bush and I had a little discussion about that. He's been to Fort Stockton many times. So it was -- that was a terrific adventure as well. So this whole thing has been a wonderful adventure and these 5,000 great American heroes, I'm really proud of them. And let's get them off the ship!

PHILLIPS: There they go. And let you guys get home. Thank you so much. Thank you.

All right what a pleasure, Miles. Oh, my goodness.

O'BRIEN: It is one order. I get to tell you, Kyra, let's get them off the ship, that's one order they won't ever complain about on this ship.

I noticed Captain and Mrs. Card, the entire time during that interview, held hands. That was kind of sweet. That was a sweet moment. You know, the wives of the captains, or the spouses, I should say, of the captains -- look at that, that's -- they really have to step up to the plate. Don't they?

PHILLIPS: Well, it says something about west Texas, too, Miles. I used to work in Lubbock, Texas. I know the mentality. It's true, a lot of folks do marry their sweethearts out there in west Texas. Everybody knows everybody. So this does not surprise me. They're usually very strong, Christian families.

I know the C.O., that was important to him on the ship, when you would hear him on the loud speaker every morning, he was always encouraging the sailors, God bless America, God bless you, thank you for what you're doing, we're almost home. Every morning, I would listen to the C.O. speak to the sailors. So this does not surprise me, the relationship he has with his wife, the just energy you feel for them, or from them rather here port side. He was a pretty incredible leader, very supportive of his men and women throughout the whole time -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, you know what? I want to head up to Frank Buckley. But I want to take a quick detour to Ed Brownlee.

Ed, as you watch the captain, first of all, give us a sense of the degree -- you were talking a little about this the amount of satisfaction you feel for an incredibly difficult, demanding job well done, but also tell me a little bit about that role, that the spouse that is left behind has to play during those long months.

BROWNLEE: Well, one thing the spouse has to play is all the family members who do stay behind, always looks towards her for all the answers, like...

O'BRIEN: She has to be a leader, doesn't she?

BROWNLEE: Yes, she has to be a leader, know all, because everybody's going to turn to her. If they hear something or don't hear something about the ship, they're going to look to -- maybe she's heard something from the captain.

But she has help. She does have the ombudsman who's also there to kind of provide some of that information to the crew. Because in the case of the Abraham Lincoln you're talking about a ship's company of about 3,200 people. So of course she's going to need help, which is usually some type of committee that also provides that information to the ship.

Because a lot has happened over the last ten months that the Lincoln's been involved in and everyone just looks towards her and says what information can you provide? Or probably the most important question, when are our sailors, when are our loved ones, returning home? She always had to have the answer, or means of getting the answer to the crew -- the wives at home.

O'BRIEN: I bet if she had a nickel for every time she was asked that one, they'd be off to retirement.

Frank Buckley is back up there in the hangar. Kind of looks like he runs the risk of being stampeded at the moment, Frank. Hold your ground now.

BUCKLEY: Miles, I'm at a Who concert here. It's like the running of the bulls. They said liberty for all hands and all of a sudden the entire crowd surged forward and we were surrounded by sailors.

I want to get you over to talk to a couple folks that I've gotten to know during the past few days. Nefetiti Horton (ph) and Anna Flores (ph). Come on over, guys. You both are mothers and sailors. And you've got a 2-year-old and 6-year-old like me, and you've got a 1-year-old. First, Anna, tell me what you're waiting for when you walk out of this door.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband's going to be waiting for me on the pier. So from there, we're flying out to Texas to pick up my son.

BUCKLEY: Tell me what it's been like to be separated from your child for so long.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been hard, very hard. I've known him by pictures only and that's it.

BUCKLEY: And what's -- what has gotten you through it? How did you make it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's my second (UNINTELLIGIBLE), so I'm used to it really. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) phone call, letters, everything.

BUCKLEY: And you've got your friend here, Nefertiti Horton. You guys probably took care of each other like shipmates do. Nefertiti, you were telling me as well that you've got a brother who's in the Marines in Baghdad, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is correct.

BUCKLEY: Tell me what that has done for your mom and your family in terms of worry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it made my mother kind of hysterical. Because at first, she was only looking for me to go over and then turn around and my brother got the news, 72 hours, you need to pack up, you're getting shipped out to Baghdad.

BUCKLEY: And he's -- everything's OK, he's doing OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything is OK, he's doing fine. I received a e-mail from him about two weeks ago, and he said they should be packing up and heading back home pretty soon.

BUCKLEY: I'm sure -- mom is in South Carolina, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's correct.

BUCKLEY: I'm sure she's happy to hear that. Thank you for talking to us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

BUCKLEY: Thanks to both of you.

As you can see, Miles, every time there's another announcement, the crowd surges a little bit. I don't know if I'm at a football match or running of the bulls or what it is. Here they go, here they go, hold on.

O'BRIEN: Hang on there, Frank. For some reason, I think given the choice -- if they're given the choice of talking to you or walking off the brow there for some reason, they're choosing the latter. Why is that, I wonder?

BUCKLEY: Watch your foot, watch your foot. You know, I can't imagine that they would be more interested to see their own families and to hug those families, that they haven't seen for nearly ten months, then to sit here and talk to us on CNN.

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes.

BUCKLEY: They are -- I'll tell you, they are just so ready to be home. They were ready to be home last December, last January, when they were turned around in Australia, but they sucked it up, they went up to the Persian Gulf, they did their job, they flew 12,000-plus takeoffs and landings without any mishaps.

O'BRIEN: And that is amazing, such an amazing statement. Really is just being on a carrier deck, such a dangerous thing. To think about that record, if you really think about it, it really is astounding.

I want to ask Ed Brownlee very quickly. A carrier comes into port, without her aircraft on the deck they all get flown off. Is that tradition or is there some practical reason for that?

BROWNLEE: It's a little bit of both. The day before they were scheduled to pull into North Island the air crew generally flies off. What that does, that helps alleviate some of the -- you see how clobbered the brow is.

But once the ship is close enough to port and where they can get all the ships shore, I mean get all the aircraft ashore, just makes sense to fly them out when you can. So there is a practical sense. You want to get the sailor -- the air crews home to their families and all the sailors home to their families, as soon as you can.

So, you know, once you're within a couple miles, a day out, that's when you fly off the air wing. I know Kyra probably enjoyed her trip on the F/A-18.

O'BRIEN: Kyra Phillips, F/A-18 veteran, is down there in the crowd. And she's got a very special guest with us. The man in charge.

PHILLIPS: That's true, of the entire battle group, Admiral John Kelly (ph) and his wife Jill (ph), who I must say -- look at this stunning purple leather outfit. Sir, what did you think when you saw your wife?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She looked great! It's wonderful to be home, I'll tell you.

PHILLIPS: You've got to tell me what's going through your mind? This was a long haul for you and these sailors. You had 31 embedded journalists like me to deal with. It was not an easy time for you. How you feeling now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel wonderful. Look at this incredible effort by the city of Everett to bring us home and to welcome us and to say thanks to every one of these great sailors and their better half, their families who were you know our strength when we were gone and so important to us.

I've been on the Navy in active duty almost 30 years and this is just the most incredible homecoming I've ever seen.

PHILLIPS: And, sir, I've got to ask you about this, now that you're home -- I'll bring you in, too, Mrs. Kelly. Your son had to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Matter of fact you had to make a lot of decisions concerning your son. What was that like, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, my son's a lieutenant JG. He's a Helo pilot with HSL-49. He was embarked on USS Shiloh, which was one of the ships in the battle group. And so it's a little sobering when you're ordering your own son into potential combat operation. But, after you've been with all these wonderful people that I work with every day, they all become pretty special to you and you think about each and everyone of them the same way.

I was very proud of him, he did a great job. And his entire detachment was wonderful so, they did they're part. And I was proud of them for doing that.

PHILLIPS: Mrs. Kelly (ph), your son and your husband, the husband leading this battle group, your son a Helo pilot off the Shiloh. Wow. Tell me what it's like as a mom and a wife to be handling that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's -- you live it one day at a time and you have faith in what they're doing and you have faith in their abilities and I worked for an HSL squadron when we were down in Coronado, and so I saw how they handled themselves, and I had no doubt that they would come back safely.

PHILLIPS: I know you're a good adviser, your husband's best friend. When he called you up and said, "Honey, I'm going through a lot right now. Give me some peace of mind." What would you tell him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn't tell him the bad things. Fortunately there have not been very many bad things so we have been very lucky. This has been a really -- a very lucky, lucky cruise.

PHILLIPS: How did you encourage him and let him know that you were doing all right and remaining strong?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well you know, this e-mail thing is fabulous. We never had that before so it's really -- it's easy to stay in contact and to keep encouraging.

PHILLIPS: What about your son?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The same with my son. We talked everyday by e-mail and the other thing that I did was I spent zillions of dollars on boxes -- on packages to ship every month to each ship every month. PHILLIPS: So what did you send your husband and your son?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Licorice sticks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good stuff. All the stuff you can't buy in the ship store. Cookies and things that make you run everyday to stay ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right. It gives him an incentive to run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I gave half them to Gabe (ph) when he came -- when he flew over the ship because I couldn't eat all the stuff but it was great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gabe (ph) was the most loved sailor on the ship and people would line outside his door every mail call because he got so many boxes from home.

PHILLIPS: Now how many years have you been married?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty-nine years.

PHILLIPS: All right. So let's go back 29 years when you met your husband. Did you ever imagine he would be leading a battle group, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and be gone for 10 months at sea?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I knew he had the ability to go as far as it's possible to go in the Navy, but no, you know, when you're a lowly ensign's wife you don't think about things like that. You just wait for the next paycheck.

PHILLIPS: Sir, I think you married the right woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I absolutely married the right woman. This is my strength, has been for 30 years.

PHILLIPS: So what's the next step for you two today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to go home and take it easy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We both need a nap. I couldn't sleep last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and this is a wonderful, wonderful homecoming. Don't forget we still have a whole bunch of people on point out there. There are 50 ships still in the Gulf. Over half the Navy is still underway and the whole joint team is still out there doing the job and there are a bunch of folks who won't get a homecoming and we never want to forget those people either. They paid the ultimate price and their families, we think of them every single day and each one of these sailors appreciates with crystal clarity what those families sacrificed for all of us to have this homecoming and to continue to live in this wonderful country which does absolutely remain the light of the world. PHILLIPS: Sir, you make a very good point. The president of the United States, when he was aboard your carrier, made the exact same point that even though combat operations are over with the effort in Iraq is not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, there's a huge effort ongoing over there and there are sailors and soldiers and airmen that are just doing a magnificent job. They're still on point. It's a dangerous place for them to be and they are still showing the same wonderful discipline and heart that carried this battle group through and all the folks in the Navy that have been participating and it's just -- it just keeps you going to know those folks are there and doing their job.

PHILLIPS: And well, John Kelly (ph), Jill Kelly (ph), thank you both so much. Congratulations, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Kyra.

O'BRIEN: And thanks to Admiral Kelly (ph) for reminding us of some important points there.

Ed Brownlee, quickly before we get back to Frank Buckley, he was talking about all the ships, which are still out there. The Navy is about a 300 ship Navy. It -- this is something that has really taxes naval forces, hasn't it?

BROWNLEE: Yes, it has. When we see how many battle groups participated in this operation it'll probably take the Navy a few years to get back on a standard carrier and battle group rotation, and then when you look at the amphibious ships, the amphibious readiness groups and expeditionary groups that were deployed, they still didn't fully recover from the first Gulf War. So when you have that much effort by a shrinking Navy, they did a wonderful job. They show you how much capabilities and technology that are in these war ships and you know the training and the dedication of the crew but still, you know, it does put a heavy burden on the sailors and the ships and there's still an operation ongoing over in the -- in the Arabian Gulf and, you know, we still have battle groups and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the Med.

O'BRIEN: Ed, as the Navy tries to stabilize from all of this and get back to a routine if that's a correct term, can other carrier groups expect these long, long tours approaching a year?

BROWNLEE: No, what the Navy will try to do is to return to that six months from home port to home port deployment and they'll do whatever it takes to do that but you know in the short term I would say probably in the next six to nine months it'll be difficult to do that because you did have -- you've already deployed the carriers that would have, you know, relieved the Lincoln when she was on her way home. She's already been over there and you probably sped up deployments of other ships that support these operations. So it'll take a while to return to a steady state in getting the deployments back on a normal routine but I always have to focus on the ships that carry Marines. It will be a while before they return.

O'BRIEN: Someone's got to take up the slack, don't they?

BROWNLEE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Ed, let's move it over to Frank Buckley who's still aboard ship there, hopefully hasn't been completely stampeded.

Frank, you still in one piece?

BUCKLEY: We're still hanging in there Miles. We're now on one of the elevators with the group that stampeded us now trying to inch their way off the brow. I wanted to show you some of these guys you were talking about those roses, look at all these roses that Kurt Jenkins (ph) has. Kurt (ph) is one of these guys that we saw every day in the -- in the mess deck working in the mess hall there on the enlisted side.

Who do you got here to meet you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My mother Charlene (ph), my wife Sharella (ph) and my daughter Leslie (ph).

BUCKLEY: It's been such a long deployment for all of you. Tell me what as you're inching here, just a few feet away now from seeing everybody, what's it like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm excited. I'm excited. I'm stoked.

BUCKLEY: Is there anything that you've ever experienced that's this exciting for you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Only the birth of my daughter. Yeah, that's -- my wedding came second, you know.

BUCKLEY: There you go. You're -- and your daughter was born 10 months ago just before deployment so you're I guess could say one of the lucky ones in the sense that you got to see her but you haven't had a chance to see her grow during the past 10 months. What have you heard and how have you kept in touch with the family?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mainly I've kept in touch by telephone. Unfortunately we don't have a computer for e-mail but my family tells me that she's crawling around, she's sitting up and she's progressing quite nicely.

BUCKLEY: What do you want the American people to know about what you were thinking when you weren't the guy launching here. You weren't the guy flying the aircraft but you were doing your part. What do you want the American people to know about how you felt about your service and what your job was?

O'BRIEN: Frank Buckley, I'm sorry. I've got to interrupt you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

O'BRIEN: Frank, I'm sorry. I've got to interrupt you. We have some news coming out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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