MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – After a five-month deployment, flight delays, seemingly-endless hours of waiting, and an anxious bus ride back, the moment is finally here.
On Feb. 3, Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Stearns, a dental technician with 1st Dental Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, saw his daughter, Jocelynn Marie, for the first time.
Hours passed as they waited for the buses, and the tension only grew with time. Suddenly, they appeared, turning the corner of the 22 Area parade deck to meet the cheering crowd.
“When I started to look for him, I could feel tears starting to well up from the anticipation and happiness,” said Andrea, Stearns’ wife. “I was so happy for him to meet our daughter and so relieved he had finally made it home.”
After finding him amongst the crowd, Andrea was finally able to pass their three-week-old daughter into her husband’s open arms.
“She looked just like her mother I thought, and I was so happy for that,” said Stearns, a 25-year-old native of Marion, Ill. “I was so excited to meet her in person.”
Stearns couldn't stop staring at his baby as he cradled her in his arms. He had waited for this moment for quite a while.
During his deployment, Stearns was located on Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, as part of a team that provided health care to operating forces around the camp and forward operating bases.
While Stearns was away, Andrea had the support of friends and family, but she still missed her husband.
“[The deployment] was difficult and disappointing in a lot of ways, but I tried to be strong so he would not worry,” shared Andrea. “It was really difficult to adjust after she was born - taking care of her by myself.”
Andrea can now find comfort in knowing her husband is back.
“Brian has already helped out so much, just supporting me and helping me make it through the sleepless nights,” added Andrea.
Stearns plans to take advantage of the post-deployment leave and enjoy his time as a new father.
“I am just looking forward to spending time with my daughter and relaxing with her,” said Stearns. “I tried to learn as much as possible about how to take care of her before I got home. I would also talk to her [online] so she could get used to the sound of my voice.”
Stearns feels he is ready to take on his new role and is determined to be a great father to his daughter.