"I thought to myself, 'I'm 20 years old, I've had a good life, I love my family.' I said my prayers," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeremy Crandall of Poplar Grove, Ill.
Petty Officer 1st Class Josef Edmunds of Davis, Calif., remembered being thrown to the floor of the plane and turning to Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandon Funk of Showlow, Ariz., saying: "That's it. I'm getting married." When the crew stopped in Guam on the way home, Edmunds called his girlfriend and proposed. She accepted and stood beaming beside him after his arrival.
It has been two weeks since the crew's ordeal began, setting in motion one of the most tense and uncertain episodes in the post-Cold War period.
Since the announcement of the crew's release, the Navy-saturated town of Oak Harbor has been rushing to plan a celebration adequate to convey its affection.
An elaborate program had been planned for Saturday, including a parade through town. Had the festivities gone as originally planned, the crew's day would have stretched from dawn to well into the evening. But once the crew got wind of that, the program was drastically cut.
The abbreviated but moving welcome was set to the strains of "Anchors Aweigh" and other military anthems but also to the hoots and cheers of well-wishers.
Staff writer Cart reported from Washington and special correspondent Essoyan from Hawaii.