By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Aime Lykins

PACIFIC OCEAN – Almost all Sailors know that selecting personal items to take on deployment is a strategic endeavor. While many opt for the latest tech gadgets or digital media, others find a place in their sea bags for keepsakes that remind them of the pieces of themselves they leave ashore; their children.

As the thundering sound of jet engines blaze overhead, many USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Sailors keep the pitter patter of tiny feet in their hearts as they navigate their daily tasks.

A small, fuzzy brown teddy bear with a demure bow and shining black eyes sits vigilantly on the corner of the desk of Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Alex Perez as he scans paperwork and ushers patients in and out of Stennis’ medical department.

“Teddy has been with me since 2012,” said Perez as he clutched the bear closely to his chest. “I got him as a present from my daughter in Afghanistan, and he’s been with me ever since. I take him everywhere, and my daughter knows that Teddy is actually going to take care of me.”

Perez received the bear, aptly named Teddy, from his 3-year-old daughter, Isabel. Teddy and Perez have traveled to numerous states and more than five countries together as a reminder of family ties and fatherly love.

“When I see Teddy, I see my family,” said Perez. “Seeing him nice and calm in his little corner makes me feel like my family is safe and patiently waiting for me to come home.”

Perez is joined by shipmates like Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sarah Beltran and Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class Brian Guilliams, who remember their children with coffee mugs depicting cherished memories.

“My coffee cup, which I got for Christmas two years ago, that was actually my favorite Christmas present that year,” said Beltran. “It is my favorite coffee cup ever, so I have taken that everywhere with me. I once thought I lost it here on the ship, and I almost cried.”

Beltran is a mother of three young children and says that staying busy with work and online chatting during port calls helps her get through the separation. She also keeps videos on her laptop, which she says provides her with comfort.

Guilliams, father to a 5-year-old son, gathers motivation to excel in his work center by the daily reminder of his family at home.

“Seeing the coffee cup with his photos reminds me of why I joined the Navy and why I stay in the Navy,” said Guilliams. “So I can provide for him, and I can give him a life that I wouldn’t have been able to before. ”

Guilliams has been on sea duty for the majority of his son’s life and takes time out as often as possible to foster the connection he and his son share through phone calls or even just watching movies he knows his son would enjoy while underway.

“He’s my son, so everything that I do, I’m always going to be setting an example for him,” continued Guilliams. “Every decision that I make is based off of how he would see it when he gets older and understand who his dad is.”

Although Stennis may be an environment of steel and fortitude, tenderness is tucked away in desk corners, coffee messes and through a variety of mementos and tokens carefully stowed in work centers ship-wide.

Providing a combat-ready force to protect collective maritime interests, Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment.
For more news on USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) visit http://navy.mil/local/cvn74/.

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