Everett, Washington, May 2003

It was a day of joy and celebration for the families and crew of the USS Lincoln as it returned to its home port of Everett after being at sea for 290 days, the longest military deployment in modern times.

The crew thought they were returning in January before being ordered back to the Persian Gulf to participate in operation Iraqi Freedom. But the pain of separation was quickly forgotten as an estimated 8,000 family and relatives happily greeted returning sons and daughters.

In a huge outpouring of community support, 10,000 people crowded Everett's Pier 1 to witness the Lincoln's homecoming as it docked at Naval Station Everett a short stretch of harbor away.

Rows of sailors in dress whites lined the decks of the huge aircraft carrier as it slowly made port. A King County Sheriff's helicopter cruised overhead towing a hug American flag. Fireboats shot streams of water in the harbor to honor the returning vessel.

The crowd included many community members who did not have relatives on the ship but who came out to show support for the troops. One man came up to me to say that he couldn't express his thoughts directly to the sailors, so he wanted to tell me: "I just feel honored to support these guys."

Adding a note of poignancy to the celebration were a number of Iraqi expatriates who came to give thanks to the men and women of the USS Lincoln for helping to secure new opportunity for their country. Some of them waved Iraqi flags along with US flags.

I was fortunate to be able to witness a part of this event with my camera. These images are some of my favorites from the public homecoming celebration. I hope you enjoy them.
 

Above:  Mathew Crist of Everett shows his colors during the welcome home festivities for the USS Lincoln. An estimated 10,000 people crowded Everett's Pier 1 to show support for the returning servicemen and women. Canon EOS-10D, EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS

 

Sailors in dress whites line the deck of the aircraft carrier as it docks at the navy pier, reserved for family
and relatives of the crew. Canon EOS-10D, EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS

 

Signs of support were in evidence throughout the crowd. Canon EOS-10D, EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS

 

Mike Lande of Everett and daughter Emma, 3, came out to show
support for the Lincoln. Canon EOS-10D, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L

 

Students from Everett High School, taking the day off with permission from their parents, a inject a little
"team spirit" into the crowd. Canon EOS-10D, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L

 

There were a few notes of seriousness too: Iraqi expatriate
Adil Rikabi of Everett, with daughter Henan, 2, holds out two cards
from CentCom's deck of the 54 most wanted members of the Hussein
regime: Saddam himself and Huda Salh Mahdi Ammash, a WMD scientist,

neither of which have yet to be aprehended. Rikabi, who has been
living in the U.S. for 5 years, came out to thank the crew of the
USS Lincoln for helping to liberate his country. Canon EOS-10D,
EF 16-35mm f/2.8L

 

Hordes of media turned out to cover the homecoming celebration. Canon EOS-10D, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L

 

Fireboats shoot streams of water into harbor in welcome to the giant aircraft carrier. Canon EOS-10D,
EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS