USS Lincoln departs Everett for last time

EVERETT, Wash. -- With the holidays just weeks away, thousands of sailors bid farewell to their families as they shipped out for their mission on Wednesday.

For the last time, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln left Naval Station Everett with 5,000 sailors on board. And with the departure came the moment sailors and their families dread -- saying goodbye.

Time apart has come too often for the Naval families in Everett who are dealing with their second deployment in less than a year.

"They were gone when the year started, over Christmas and New Year last year, and they're going to be gone again this year. So it's a little harder the second time around," said Navy wife Suzanne Cessna.

The aircraft carrier is headed back to the Middle East where its fighter jets will back up U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The ship's commander says crew members will do their best to share a happy holiday.

"The input cabin's got a Christmas tree up there. We've got poinsettias all over the place. We'll decorate the door, you know. But it's tough being away for Christmas," said Capt. John D. Alexander.

Sailors have tried to make every moment at home last as long as possible.

"(We have been) trying to get out of work early to see our families as much as we can before we leave. It's been tough for a lot of people," said sailor Sean Hillier.

The deployment will be even more stressful as the Lincoln will have a different home after its four-month mission. After having spent the last 15 years in Everett, it is headed to a new home port in Virginia. That means service members' spouses and children will ave to move to the other side of the country.

"We're just hoping the time goes very quickly, because we're ready to have him home," Cessna said.

In Abraham Lincoln's absence, Naval Station Everett will now become the home port to another aircraft USS Nimitz, which is due to arrive no later than March.