SAN DIEGO - It was one emotional reunion after another for about 2,000 Marines and sailors stepping off the USS Nimitz on Thursday morning.
Eight-year-old Tayleigh Onion kept waiting for her dad, Jeffrey Onion, who performs search-and-rescue missions for the Navy. The longer she waited, the harder she cried until her cheeks were soaked with tears.
Her younger sister, Scarlett, did not seem to notice because she is only six-months-old.
Onion deployed nearly nine months ago with the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and embarked Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11, and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23 to the U.S. 5th, 6th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility.
He did not get the Navy blues uniform he was supposed to, so he had to wait to meet his daughter.
When that moment came for him to get off the ship, he would not let go of his wife, Bobi, and their four small kids.
Bobi Onion said she loves him because of how much he loves others.
"He was wanting to be in the Navy ever since I remember," she said.
Jeffrey Onion and his wife grew up together and were high school sweethearts. Onion headed to boot camp the summer after his senior year.
"I love what I do, but it hurts to be away from family," Onion said.
When 10News asked him what made it all worth it, he said the guys he works with.
Onion's squadron lost two when a MH-60 Knighthawk went down while trying to land on the William P. Lawrence, which was part of their strike group. Onion was one of the sailors who loaded into an aircraft and started searching for five of his own.
Back home, his wife only knew it was a chopper he had flown in before.
"We didn't know anything until that night if our sailor or if our husband or loved one was safe," Bobi Onion said. "It was heart-wrenching to know that you weren't sure if you would see your loved one again."
It was a reality for the families of HSC-6 crew members Lt. Cmdr. Landon Jones, 35, of Lompoc, and Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Gibson, 32, of Aurora, Ore., who gave their lives serving their country. Three others were rescued.
After a long deployment, Onion was ready to go home, so 10News could not ask what the fallen were like or if he was one of the sailors who helped rescue the others.
We can only imagine he showed them love. After all, just like mom, it is Tayleigh's favorite part about her dad.
"He loves me," she said as a single tear dripped down her face.
The USS Nimitz will return to its homeport in Everett, Wash., on Monday.