Chris Votava is a 2013 graduate of Little Cypress –Mauriceville High School. His sister, Haley is an eighth grade student at LCM Jr. High. Haley thought her brother was in Norfolk, Virginia after returning from a deployment to Bahrain on his ship the USS George H. W. Bush. She walked into her art class at school Tuesday morning to see smiling students, her parents, and assorted news media in the room. She was attempting to figure out what all the fuss was about when someone said, “turn around.” Haley turned and saw Chris standing behind her. There were smiles, tears and long, tight hugs between the siblings. “I did not know he was coming home, this is the best Christmas present ever,” said Haley.

Chris had left home to go to Navy boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Recruit Station, near Chicago last February 8. He was able to come home for a few weeks in April and then reported to his ship, already on station near Bahrain, June 18.

He is serving as an ABHAA, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate-Airman Apprentice. His job is to move FA-18 fighter planes on the carrier. He wears a blue shirt. His group is responsible for getting the fighters in position to launch and recover them when they return after their missions. He is staring his Navy career, and has recently been promoted to an Enlisted, Second Class (E2) rank.

Along with his parents Mike and Brenda Authement, he arrived early at school and went to Haley’s art classroom. Chris graciously gave the students in the room an opportunity to ask him about the Navy and his life aboard ship. One question dealt with what the fighter planes do. “I do not really know where they are going or what they are doing, but when they leave with bombs and come back with wires hanging where the bombs were, I know somebody has been in trouble”, said Chris. “I move planes around”, was his reply to his job aboard ship. He told the students it was very hot at Bahrain, and very cold leaving France to go back to the ship’s home port, Norfolk, Virginia. Asked about the food, he replied, “it’s not very good.

One student asked him about his relationship with his sister. “We are very close, I try to protect her and care for her. I send her regular emails to let her know how I am doing, and to see what she is doing and how she is. She is the closest and best friend I have”, said Chris.

After the hugs, Haley was asked if she knew Chris was coming home. “I did not have any idea he was coming home. I ate all his food. He gave me this jacket and I try to wear it every day. I am glad I wore it today, I constantly wear it. I miss him because he has always been here”, said Haley. “We care for each other a lot.”

On the list of things to do while Chris is home is a late celebration of Haley’s birthday, which was November 23. “We will have a special Christmas celebration, just hang out at home, and maybe play some video games. It is an amazing feeling to be home”, said Chris.

He will be home until December 12, when he will return to Norfolk and rejoin his ship. The Bush is not scheduled for another overseas deployment until sometime in 2016.

 Photo: Haley Votava thought her brother was in Norfolk, Virginia after returning from a deployment to Bahrain on his ship the USS George H. W. Bush. She walked into her art class at school Tuesday morning to see smiling students, her parents, and assorted news media in the room.