PACIFIC OCEAN (April 16, 2011) - Families of Sailors from the Japan-based aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), evacuated after the March 11 earthquake, are adjusting well to their new lives back in the United States and you don’t have to look beyond the headlines in Johnstown, Colorado’s local paper to find evidence of this. A story and photo on the front page of the sports section featured Meghan Pomeroy, 17, daughter of Lt. Cmdr. Steve Pomeroy, the Ship’s Maintenance Manager.
Playing in her first game for Roosevelt High School, Pomeroy’s daughter was highlighted as a standout soccer player despite their 2-1 loss to a rival school.
“My family is currently living in Johnstown with my parents and we are planning for them to stay there until my expected [Projected Rotation Date] PRD in June 2012,” said Pomeroy. “It’s a big decision to be away from them. I’ve never been a [geographic] bachelor before and it’s something that we had to decide together as a family.”
On March 17, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense authorized DoD eligible family members to depart Japan for a designated location. This was in response to the deteriorating situation at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Plant following the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. A total of 767 George Washington dependents took advantage of the Voluntary Military Evacuation. Three weeks later, those families now have to make the painful decision on whether or not to uproot their lives once again.
While Pomeroy’s oldest child is adjusting well to her newfound fame on the soccer field, the move is still a tough adjustment.
“We are taking it one day at a time,” said Terry Pomeroy, who is stateside caring for the couple’s three children. “We are really missing Dad and try to talk to him as much as possible through this unexpected separation. We try to address each situation that comes up in a positive attitude and with the reality that life can change in the blink of an eye.”
Moving back to the states was just the beginning of the transition for these families. Like the Pomeroy’s, the first step was finding schools willing to take their children on such short notice; something easier said than done.
“Initially it was stressful,” said Senior Chief Quartermaster (SW/AW) Al Diaz, Leading Chief Petty Officer of George Washington’s Navigation Department, discussing his family’s move to El Paso, Texas. “My wife had difficulty enrolling my daughters to their respective schools, making matters more complicated, my daughters had to be separated due to school availability.”
For married couples, the stress of the evacuation has tested marriages and husband and wife’s ability to communicate, cope and listen to each other vent their frustration. For single parents, however, the evacuation is just as difficult.
“I am just thinking of my children’s comfort and stability,” said Hospital Corpsman Second Class (SW) Arlene Jones, Medical Departments Supply Repair Parts Petty Officer. “My boys are more resilient; they adjust better than I do.”
Jones’ is a single mother who had to frantically find someone she could entrust with her two young children. A friend on base offered to take them home to Mesquite, Texas where they are now actively engaged in hobbies, sports activities and school.
“They have been so wonderful,” said Jones. “They are trying to make it as comfortable as possible for the boys.”
To return or not to return; it is a question many are still uncertain how to answer. For the Diaz family, it’s a clear choice.
“For now they are coping with the situation, but all of them prefer to return back to Japan as soon as possible; back to normal life as they knew it prior to the earthquake,” said Diaz. For others, staying put is the way to go.
“I would like for my children to be able to finish out the school year in the states,” said Jones. “I don’t want for them to have to shift everything in their lives again right now and with our deployment schedule so unknown at this time, it just makes more sense for them to remain in place and to focus on their hobbies and friends.”
George Washington has been underway since March 21, departing her forward-deployed port of Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka in response to the complex nature of the natural disaster that struck Japan, March 11.
George Washington is the Navy’s only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, ensuring security and stability across the western Pacific Ocean.