ABOARD USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- It's a long road from Midland, Texas, to the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).
For someone growing up in Midland, the land is desolate, the air is dry and the area is made up of dusty oil fields. But George W. Bush would come out of those hot hardpan fields to become president of the United States.
Numerous years later, two young Sailors would journey out of the same fields and West Texas sun to wind up on a ship-of-war, crossing paths with a fellow Midlander on a not so dusty steel deck.
"This is awesome. It makes me really proud to be in the Navy," said Storekeeper 3rd Class Michael Fisher, 23, of Midland. "I don't know too many people from my hometown, or from anywhere, who can say the president, someone who grew up in the same place we did, flew out to personally welcome us home from a war."
The "we" indicated by Fisher was in reference to Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Timothy Roberts, also 23, who grew up with Fisher in Midland and went to the same Robert E. Lee High School. They met again by chance after Fisher and Roberts graduated high school in 1998, with Fisher joining the Navy in 1999 and Roberts in 2001.
Each wanted new challenges with interesting places that weren't as dusty, hot and dry. For both, the Navy and traveling the world's oceans offered what they both wanted and desired. Fisher found a chance to stabilize his life by becoming, or "striking," for the storekeeper rating after being assigned to Lincoln.
Roberts found new adventures in one squadron job with the same long hours, but at least he wasn't working two or more odd jobs around Midland. They found each other again when Roberts' squadron, a part of Carrier Air Wing 14, was assigned to Lincoln for its 2002 deployment. They called it unique and special that they were able to be together at the same moment in time and history to hear another prominent Midland native speak.
"It's really cool," said Roberts, who was aboard Lincoln as member of Strike/Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113, homeported at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif. "How many people can claim the same hometown as the president, and how many can say they have seen him or met him on their ship?"
The president flew out to the ship May 1 on an S-3B Viking aircraft the day before the carrier pulled into San Diego. The president came aboard to welcome home the returning ship after Lincoln took part in the longest carrier deployment in 30 years.
The Viking jet aircraft, from the VS-35 "Blue Wolves" of Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., was one of the same used during the more than 16,000 flight operations in the war. It was the first time a president flew in a Navy tactical jet and landed, or "trapped", on a carrier.
"It was pretty interesting how the president arrived," Fisher said. "But his speech was really awesome."
Bush addressed the nation and the world from the flight deck of Lincoln as nearly the entire compliment of crew, more than 5,000, stood in front of the president cheering wildly and often during many portions of the 22 minute speech.
"The speech gave me a good sense of pride," Roberts said. "We had done what the president had asked us to do, extend our deployment to help the people of Iraq. It makes you proud to be able to do that for America and the president, especially when he's from your hometown."
Both Midland residents were specially picked to be a special part of the president's busy schedule on Lincoln.
Fisher was one of the Rainbow Sailors who wore a colored pull-over flight deck shirt and stood on risers over the right shoulder of the president while he was giving his speech. Roberts was chosen to eat dinner with more than 100 other enlisted crew members on the ship's mess decks.
The Lincoln Carrier Strike Group left its home port of Everett, Wash., July 20, 2002, and was on its way home in January, when the president and the Department of Defense sent the strike group back to the Arabian Gulf just before the start of combat operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Although Roberts and Fisher may not have been able to sit down and talk face-to-face about home with the president, just being on the same carrier in the same ocean coming home to America, was something pretty special and amazing to write home about.
"We spent a long time out there, but when you think of what we did and how we did it, it's something that we'll be able to tell the folks back home for years to come. And, of course, there is the visit by a president from Midland, Texas, that I'll also get to talk about," Roberts said. "In Texas we like to say, 'you don't mess with Texas and you don't mess with the U.S. when there's a Texan in the White House.'" Fisher added, "I think there's an American in the White House."
For more USS Abraham Lincoln News, visit the ship's Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn72.