Mudbugs Spice Up Pilot's Return Home

Dr. John Stringer had a scanner glued to his left ear. At one point, he pressed a button and talked into the radio.

"I hear some static, but I don't pick you up Tabb," he said.

Tabb is a Navy pilot, and Dr. Stringer's son. On Tuesday, the pilot was flying into Gulfport.

"He's going to call me on this civilian frequency," Stringer said.

The call came at 10:30, seconds before the military jet touched down.

"See where those people are standing," Dr. Stringer told his grandchildren, pointing to the airport's ground crew. "That's where they're going to park him."

As the military jet taxied up to the FBO Av Center, the Stringer family moved forward. Within minutes, Lt. Cmdr. Tabb Stringer emerged from his cockpit. The Iraqi war veteran was back on South Mississippi soil. The first person he hugged was his father.

"How are you?" the 34 year old pilot asked. "Good to see you," responded his father.

The last 12 months, Lt. Cmdr. Stringer flew two dozen missions over Baghdad. His plane blocked enemy radars, so the U.S. could attack Iraqi targets.

"It was fun. It was exciting, especially the first couple of weeks," he said, referring to the start of the war last year.

And then "the ground troops rolled over and took everything out."

Stringers's crew made this refueling stop on the way to Jacksonville, Florida. It gave the pilot a chance to come home for a few hours, hug his family, and chow down on Lil Ray's crawfish.

"That's right, some crawfish and some po boys," the pilot smiled. "Show these other people what crawfish are about."

The crawfish meal was spicy. But it wasn't why the elder Stringer had tears in his eyes. The dentist called this brief encounter, "A big day."

His excitement was shared by his son. The only downside was the get together was just over lunch. Still, the Lt. Cmdr. said it was "a treat. It's very nice."

Stringer spent the first nine months of the war either over Baghdad, or on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Nimitz. His parents and his brother are still in Gulfport. But the 34 year old lives in Washington state.