EVERETT, Wash. -- It was all Merissa Magers could do to remember to breathe.
"I'm really excited," she exhaled. "Got butterflies, shaking. I'm ready!"
This was Merissa's first deployment away from her husband Chris and she awaited his return with another first: their first son. Five-month-old Oliver was born while Chris was at sea. Merissa has been raising him and their two-year-old daughter, Brooklynn, on her own.
"It's been rough," she said. "I'm glad it's over. Seems like it's been a couple of years."
Merissa's husband was supposed to be home two months ago, but the Nimitz's mission was extended when tensions with Syria flared up in the fall. The crew has been gone nine months, or 262 days, as noted by at least half a dozen signs at the welcome home reception Monday afternoon.
Katie Karaffa eagerly awaited her husband Tyler. It was their first deployment with their children Quinn, who is almost three and Kinsey who turned 15 months old Monday and got to celebrate with a long overdue kiss from her dad.
"We'll have to take some time to get to know each other again," said Tyler. "But we'll be okay."
The family has been delaying Christmastime as they waited to be whole again.
"We're going home to put up the Christmas tree," said Katie. "He gets to string up lights, but fortunately, he loves it!"
It will be diaper duty for Chris Magers.
"I might give him a day or two off," said his wife Merissa. That's actually a welcome change for this dad who is just happy to be home for the holidays.
"All we were thinking was that we would be home for Thanksgiving, and then that got taken away," he said. "So all we were worried about was Christmas. This is the best Christmas ever."