A Photog's Homecoming by Andy Grossman

It's been too long since the photog has seen a familiar face.

The burning in his spine a testament to the hours spent in one of the most dangerous places to work.

Hours fittingly measured as "hundreds."

A sharp knock ends a fitful sleep as our photog meets the fluorescent dawn.

Zero-two-early is the time. His motivation is hot chow in the wardroom. Luxury on a plate.

Our hungry photog tries to ignore the whisper in his ear we're moving. The motion of the last Cheerio confirms it.

The stinging rain is sobering. Grey skies and slate-colored seas somehow make a perfect day for the warship.

Sailors space themselves along the rails, their steely hearts now aflutter with anxious pride.

Thousands. Each a lonely child or long-lost parent. All dissolved into their pea coat anonymity.

Raindrops turn this sight into a dreamy blur. As if all the tears found their way to his lens.

Our photog is homesick, too. He longs to hear those three little words.

His sense of purpose is not extinguished by his sodden clothes. Harsh shapes pierce the fog. The pier is now in sight.

The sailors are noticably taller. Swollen with pride, their ranks only broken by a shiver.

The vessel is eased along the pier at an agonizing pace. How can six months have passed, but thirty minutes become an eternity?

Eyes dart each way across the water, looking for a loved one.

There are no balloons or signs to help our photog find a friend. No beacon to locate those three little words. The brow is open, and our photog beats the surge of sailors to the pier.

The tape never stops rolling as the two crowds rush to meet. Strollers alongside seabags. Sailors meet infants. Lips meet lips.

After the frenzy dies down, and the tide of smiles pass, our photog is left alone. But one outstretched hand makes it's way against the flow.

A familiar face tosses a lifeline to our photog. Please say those three little words!

"Mic check, please."

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