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Around The Fleet

The Best Present Ever

Five Daughters Get Their Christmas Wish

"What do you want from Santa this Christmas?"

That was the question of the night at the MacArthur Center shopping mall in Norfolk, Va., as a long line of children waited to sit next to Santa Claus Dec. 13 and whisper what they hoped would appear under the tree on Christmas morning.

Dolls, trucks, G.I. Joes and Barbies were the talk of the town for many of the children, but for five little girls, their wishes were different.

All dressed in personalized red shirts, each with a picture of a reindeer, the five sisters came with one wish - for Santa to bring their dad, Fire Controlman 1st Class Chad Chambers, home for Christmas.

Chambers has been deployed aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Stout (DDG 55) since the ship left its Norfolk homeport in August. Since his departure, his wife, Kim, and five daughters ranging from 7 years to 11 months old, Kara, Allie, Hollee, Megan and Britton, the youngest, have been waiting for him to return.

As the five sisters sat next to Santa, all with closed eyes and wishing in unison for Santa to bring their dad home for Christmas, Chambers emerged from around the corner to greet them, surprising them with his return.

"I think they are all still in a state of shock," Chambers said. "This is the best Christmas wish I could ever ask for."

Tears, smiles, and bear hugs of joy were exchanged as each girl ran into their father's arms to see their wish come true.

Chambers returned from deployment early as a PCS transfer from Stout to a shore command, where he said he will retire in three years.

"When I'm away, I miss them a whole lot," Chambers said. "I was talking with my 3-year old this morning on the phone while in Greece, and told her I had to go, and she started crying saying 'Daddy don't go,' but she didn't know."

For his wife, it was a sigh of relief to see him home.

"It's so surreal," she said. "Our whole life has been goodbye, and we get a hello, and we don't have to say goodbye anymore."

Chambers and his wife married in 1998, and according to Kim, their lives changed dramatically after 9/11.

"Our whole world was flipped upside down, and it's just been go, go, go ever since," she said. "He's been at sea for 12 out of the 15 years we've been married. It's been tough."

When Chambers is deployed, Kim said that she has a support system to help her out.

"Like every Navy spouse, we have each other, and that's what you kind of use to get through it," Kim said. "But it's so nice to have him home."

Knowing that this may be her husband's final deployment, Kim said it is what she and the family have been waiting for.

"It's like peace," she said. "Like 16 years of needed peace."