A sea of signs, flags, and anxious families prepared to greet 172 members of NMCB 133 on Wednesday morning. The Hartmans came a long way to reunite with their daughter.
"We drove 18 hours from Pennsylvania," said Marilyn Hartman. "We would not have missed it for the world."
Crayons kept three-year old Emma Stiles and her older brother busy. Since February, the closest thing to being with their daddy is a digital, cardboard version of him.
"They say good night to daddy," said Michelle Stiles. "He positioned his hands just right so they can hold his hand. So we've taken pictures at every event he's missed. He's the love of my life and about to come home. I feel excited and queasy."
The anticipation continued to build, as the buses finally arrived at the Gulfport Seabee Base. Suddenly, the thousands of miles of separation and hours of waiting in the searing heat seemed to melt away.
"Welcome home," the crowd shouted to the arriving Seabees.
"It's so good to see you," said Robert Stiles as he looked lovingly at his family.
The Stiles children got to hug their real daddy once again.
"It feels good. Six months. It's good to be home," said Stiles.
"Life just got a whole lot better," said his wife Michelle. "He's the reason this family works."
"It's perfect," said Seabee Ingrid Rivera. "Who could I ask for anything more than the perfect welcome?"
The families will get to enjoy at least four days together, before the Seabees have to go back to training.
"It's a blessing," said Marilyn Hartman. "We're very proud of her and we're very proud of 133, every one of them. Let's go home."
On Wednesday night, 135 members of NMCB-133 arrived at the Seabee Base from a mission in Africa.