With 25 years of experience in the Navy, the most recent deployment for Commander Master Chief Eric Kinnaman was certainly not his first rodeo.
“It’s (aircraft) carrier life," Kinnaman said. "Five thousand people, all your best friends, tight living quarters -- it’s a lot of fun. Most exciting job in the world.”
But for all the fun and excitement, sailors also face hardships like months away from friends and family. Tightened restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic increased some of the hardships.
One example is a policy that no one leave and then return to their ship over fears the sailor could have contracted the novel coronavirus while away.
Kinnaman says he and other leaders evaluated sailors' circumstances on a case-by-case basis, but there were instances in which a sailor who had lost a loved back home could not join family members in mourning.
“To tell them that they can’t go home, that they can’t go back and go to funerals and stuff like that because of the outbreak and travel restrictions -- it’s hard," he said. "But it’s part of the job. "Kinnaman was deployed over the spring when the pandemic began.
He thanks cell phone companies and wireless providers for helping the sailors on his ship communicate with their families to make sure they were safe.
The messages he received from his wife and two kids back in Corpus Christi helped ease his concerns as his deployment neared its end in July." That really helped a lot coming back knowing I was coming back to someone who had taken the precautions, so where we’d be safe.”
Kinnaman is also thankful for his community's support of the military like the hundreds of American flags placed along Ocean Drive this week in honor of Veterans Day on Wednesday.
Two women, who have strong military ties, spoke fondly of the flags as they visited Ropes Park Monday.
“It’s wonderful. It really is," Eileen Hosephros said. "It gave me goosebumps when I was walking here the other day.”
"Happy Veterans Day, and God bless you all," Marlene Nagy said.