Mitchell Johnson, a 2007 graduate of North Augusta High School, experienced an unusually sweet Navy-style homecoming just before Christmas, as he returned from serving in the Persian Gulf.
Along with hugging his wife, Madison, the Dec. 19 reunion also included a chance for Johnson to hold their 11-week-old daughter, Avery, for the first time.
“My wife gave birth in October, and I was deployed,” he recalled. “I was with her the whole time, on the phone during the whole thing, and as soon as she got done, I got pictures of it. It was awesome.”
The lady of the house, a native of Denton, Texas, is also in the Navy, serving at Fort Gordon.
The new father, a culinary specialist, was serving aboard the USS Hue City and arrived in Mayport, Fla., to find an informal family reunion waiting at the pier.
“We were manning the rails ... and they were all just waiting there, waving. Everybody had signs, and my wife, Madison, was there, with our little girl, holding her, and she looked precious.
“My mom was there. My sister was there. My grandma was there. My father was there. A friend was there. It was awesome.”
Johnson, the son of Glen Johnson and Laurel Jones, completed a six-month tour of duty and is shipping out again this week.
The jolt of hands-on fatherhood, he said, was hard to describe.
“To see her face, after seeing only pictures for two months, and to see her face up close, it’s just unbelievable,” he said.
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