Editor's Note: In light of the approaching Thanksgiving holiday, CHIPS would like to salute warfighters serving far from home and their families with the following article from Navy News Service.
ARABIAN GULF (NNS) — While deployed, one of the greatest challenges Sailors face is separation from family and loved ones back home, and uncommon practices of staying connected with those at home can become commonplace.
One Sailor aboard aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike) made a special deal with her five-year-old daughter before volunteering to deploy with Ike from Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), which is currently docked in Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.
"Our ship is still being built so I saw this as an opportunity to get some real deckplate experience," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Lenae Johnson, an aviation maintenance administrationman in Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department's Production Control and leading petty officer for four more Ford Sailors on board. "I wanted to come out here for leadership experience as a second class, earn some rank and warfare qualifications, and save some money. I told my daughter that mommy has to leave, but that I'll take 'Titi' with me and that'd we would come back together safe and sound. That was my way of telling her, at four years old, and she said it was okay as long as I took Titi, kept her safe, and took pictures."
Titi, a small stuffed bear with a flawless sense of fashion, has traveled with Ike and met much of its crew. She has also accompanied them to every port visit.
"I've sent her some of the pictures, but not all, so that I can still have a few surprises when I return," Johnson said. "Her favorite so far was the one with the camel. She couldn't believe that Titi was riding a camel."
Included among Titi's pictures with Ike's crew are some shots with the strike group senior leadership. Johnson also hopes to get the ship's command triad to pose with the bear.
"Everyone on the ship sees Titi around," said Johnson. "I get weird looks, but once I explain why I have it, they're all for it. At the end of the day, I know what it's for and the pictures turn out great."
Johnson's daughter, Jada, whom she says stays busy with school, piano, ballet, and swimming lessons, is eagerly awaiting the return of her mother and her beloved Titi after their adventures on the other side of the world.
"This is my third deployment, but my first time deploying with a child," said Johnson. "It's different when you have someone to come back to. This is something I can say I did — deployed with one of my child's toys and took pictures with it in places across the world. Maybe it's something for her to take to show-and-tell."
Ike, embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3, and the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (Ike CSG) are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations, and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
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For more news from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), visit http://www.navy.mil/local/cvn69/.