Navy families adapt, stay strong when duty pulls them apart
Ron C. Lawson
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Griffin and his wife Leah Griffin, hold their infant son, Luke, born Dec. 3. Kyle Griffin didn't go with the USS Abraham Lincoln when it left Everett on Wednesday, but was to fly to San Diego this weekend to catch up with the carrier before its deployment.
Luke Griffin came into this world nine days ago at 21 inches long, weighing 7 pounds, 10 ounces.
Together, all those dimensions seem as disparate as can be. They're not.
They are intertwined, just as the lives of thousands of individuals -- wives, parents, siblings, children and friends -- are affected by the huge ship and their loved ones' Navy duties.
Luke's 23-year-old father, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Griffin, left his Bothell home this weekend to fly to San Diego. He's part of a group of sailors who stayed in Everett to finish some work before joining the ship. He'll join the rest of the Lincoln's crew as they leave for a six-month deployment.
On Wednesday, the Lincoln left Naval Station Everett, its home for 15 years. The carrier won't return here, and will have a new homeport at Newport News, Va.
Before the Lincoln pulled away, its commander, Capt. John Alexander, called Wednesday a "historic day and a bittersweet day." Snohomish County can look forward to the expected March arrival of the USS Nimitz, the Lincoln's replacement.
Looking at the big picture -- and through the years we have seen so many memorable pictures of the carrier we called our own -- let's not forget the smallest people who sacrifice while their parents serve.
Luke Griffin, born Dec. 3 at Kirkland's Evergreen Hospital Medical Center, is too young to speak for himself. Someday he'll tell the story of how, just days after he was born, his father left for duty aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
On Friday, when I called the couple's house, Kyle Griffin was holding his crying little son while new mom Leah Griffin took a quick shower. Luke is their first child, and Leah, 24, is now learning to care for an infant on her own. After a maternity leave, she'll return to work part-time as a nurse at Evergreen Hospital.
"He had one week's being a dad, and now he'll be gone six months," Leah Griffin said.
The couple, who married in 2009, have been through another deployment. Kyle Griffin, whose Navy job is information technology support, spent half of 2010 at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"It was hard. I had just started my job and didn't know anybody. You get into a routine -- working, working, working," Leah Griffin said. "I don't have any family living up here, but I now have really good support from my church, Bethany Christian Assembly in Everett."
Her husband has been in the Navy five and a half years, and is taking college courses online. His goals are to earn a degree in computer science and apply for an officers program. Now attached to the Lincoln, he isn't sure where his next orders will take him.
"You never know what's around the corner," Kyle Griffin said. "We bought a house here. For now, this is home -- until they tell me otherwise."
The young family's sacrifices hit home with me this month. Just a day before Luke Griffin was born, my daughter gave birth to my first grandchild. Her husband is home in Seattle as together they learn what it means to be parents.
I watched that big ship pull away from its Everett pier Wednesday. It was a big day, and a big story.
It took talking with a brand new mother and father to remind me that it's also a story of young families coping with upheaval and spending months apart.
"People have kids. They've got to leave their families. That's the way it is," Kyle Griffin said. "We all know what we signed up for."
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, email@example.com.
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