Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Pair of Miller Homecomings

In July, 2002, the USS Abraham Lincoln left her home port in Everett, Washington and headed for a six-month tour of the south Pacific. In late December, with the ship already en route for home, orders came to head back to the Persian Gulf for an indefinite length of time. Needless to say, it was an unanticipated hardship and a difficult time for all aboard the Lincoln.

One of those sailors was a young man named Justin Miller. Like many who serve in the military, he left at home his wife, Jaynelle, and young son, Jakob. Not only were mother and son thousands of miles away from their closest relatives, but Jaynelle was also expecting another baby in November. While this was a difficult situation for any young family, there was more to come.

By September, the pregnancy took a turn and Jaynelle was ordered to take bed rest. 

Now how in the world can a single mom with a toddler and no support system go on bed rest for weeks on end? 

Well, Jaynelle took the logical step of calling a family from her church with babysitter-age daughters and asking them to help her out. The girls came over to the Millers' apartment to watch endless repeats of Toy Story 2 with Jake while Jaynelle got some rest. Eventually, it became logical to send Jake over to play at their home, so she could have some peace and quiet, too.

As the weeks went by, Jake and the babysitters' family grew closer and closer. They spend countless days together, and Jake quickly fell into place as the youngest member of the big family. When his baby sister, Jolie, arrived safe and sound in November, it seemed only logical that he continue spending time with his new friends. As his mom and sister settled into a routine, they joined in the visits too. Big family and little family became one family.

Winter turned to spring and finally, finally, the good news came that the Lincoln was homeward bound. In a very special gesture to honor their newfound friends, Justin and Jaynelle secured clearances for the whole big family to join their little family on the pier, with thousands of other Navy family members, to welcome Justin home. 

If you haven't already guessed it, the babysitters' family is my family.

And so it was that on May 6, 2003, I had the incredible honor to experience the USS Lincoln's homecoming as a member of the Navy family. I stood with the little family I had come to love so much, and welcomed home their father and husband, the sailor whom I had never met, Justin.

It was quite a day.

This special memory is on my mind tonight because of a different homecoming. After another many-months-long international deployment, Justin is back home with his family tonight in faraway Florida. Although I couldn't be there, Jaynelle posted this pic of Jake and his little sister, Jolie, giving Justin the hero's welcome.  

{Editor's note: I just noticed that third-born Jensen is squished in the middle of this group hug...see the orange shirt and little glimpse of his face?!} 

I can't tell you how much it warms my heart to see them together and makes me proud to call them my family. Love you guys and miss you lots! 


  1. What a beautiful story! I remember your talking about them way back when. I had to watch the clip. I LOVE Toy Story!!


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