Navy Ship Homecoming 101:
What REALLY Happens On The Pier
The other day, I got an email from a blog follower. She wanted to know “What is it REALLY like on the pier?” I thought that was a great question, and I sent her my thoughts. I decided to share the same topic with you all today, as I know that more people may have the same question.
Here’s all you need to know– your Navy ship homecoming 101 lesson: (go here for info specific to a Navy P3 homecoming)
1- What are the “festivities”?
You may have gotten emails or seen Facebook updates about the “festivities” associated with a homecoming. What is that all about?
You can expect:
- tables with food
- a bounce house or other activities for kids
- people chatting excitedly everywhere
- news crews and cameras
- tons of patriotic decorations
Every command has its own flavor & style so be sure to contact your FRG in order to get the specifics!
That leads us to…
2- What to bring?
Consider the weather. My ship experience was in San Diego so it was quite warm in late October. In other locations such as Japan, Washington or Virginia, the weather could be quite chilly. I’ve done a homecoming in a hanger while it was 20 degrees out in Washington state, and I’m not sure if I had quite enough layers!
- extra clothes, blankets or jackets for yourself and the kids.
- lawn chairs (This chair would be awesome!)
- extra flip flops or walking shoes if you’ll be wearing heels… the walk from parking to the pier can be long, and you may be waiting a while too.
- umbrella or raincoat if weather is iffy
- hat or umbrella for sun shade
- water or other (non-alcoholic) beverage
- a homemade sign for your sailor if you choose
- supplies to entertain your children if wait gets long
Speaking of waiting…
3- How long do you wait?
Depending on how early you arrive, and whether or not the ship is on schedule, you could end up waiting a long time! Once you can see the ship, it still takes quite a while for it to pull into the dock. Once docked, you’ll STILL be waiting as they secure everything shut down, and set up the gang planks (exit ramps). After that, you might have MORE waiting because it takes a while to get everyone off the ship, and your sailor may not be in the first groups to disembark.
4- Getting off the ship
When my then-fiance’ finally got off the ship, it was one of the most exciting moments I’ve ever experienced. And for those who have endured the challenge of delivering a baby during deployment, their sailors are the ones who get off first. Watching all of the wonderful reunions kept me from going too crazy while I waited for my man. It was and is such a beautiful sight!
5- Additional tips
Consider parking & traffic issues when you plan your arrival. It may not seem like a good idea to get there too early, but if you wait too long you may have a hard time finding parking. If you do find parking, you may have to walk a loooong way to get to the pier (hence my above suggestion to bring walking shoes).
On an extremely cold or hot day, you may want to consider waiting in your car with the heater or AC blasting for a while before venturing outside.
All in all, there is a lot of waiting involved with a navy ship homecoming. However, it is an incredibly exciting and moving thing to watch and experience! I wish you the best in your next homecoming!
For more homecoming tips, check out my top 10 homecoming do’s and don’ts list!
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