CHEYENNE, Wyo. — It's more than four months late, but Christmas finally came for the Trevino family, and Terri Trevino got exactly what she wanted from her Navy son.
"Our biggest Christmas present was having him home," she said.
Last week an artificial tree carefully decorated with sparkling white garland and bulbous ornaments still stood in their living room with three presents — a set of "The Sopranos" DVDs, a model low rider and a print of the old Mile High Stadium — wrapped underneath.
The family originally expected Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jacob Trevino home by early January, but when his ship, the USS Abraham Lincoln, turned around and headed to the Persian Gulf indefinitely, everyone's plans were put on hold.
"My husband and I just cried. We were so scared," Terri said. "It took us a couple of days to kind of pull it back together. We already had made all the arrangements and were supposed to meet him.
"Everything just fell apart in front of our eyes. That was really tough. I can't even put it into words.
"I just made the decision that I wasn't going to take down any of the Christmas decorations inside until he came home," she said. "I didn't care how long they had to stay up."
The gifts were opened Thursday after Jacob finally returned to Cheyenne on May 5 from his 10-month deployment on the now-famous carrier.
His parents picked up Jacob in San Diego on May 2.
"I just about ran a couple of people down when I saw him," Terri Trevino said. "I think I just about tripped over this one poor kid. I was so happy to see him and just to know he was safe."
His father, Joe Trevino, felt the same.
"It's kind of hard to describe," Joe said. "After nine months of worrying about him, seeing him home, I just can't describe it. It was a great feeling seeing him there."
For Jacob, being home and nearing the end of his four years in the Navy is a big relief.
"I'm glad to be back home," he said. "About the last week on the ship I couldn't sleep for anything. It was thoughts of home and actually being able to get off the ship."
For most of his time on board, Jacob worked as an aviation support equipment technician, working on turbines, generators and other support machinery.
"It's kind of like a Jiffy Lube mechanic," he said, but often the workload was more difficult.
"It actually kind of came in waves," he said. "You'd be working really hard and heavy for two or three weeks and then it would stop. Then all of a sudden something else would break."
The hardest part, he said, was turning some of his responsibilities over to younger sailors. He leaves the Navy in June.
"I am more the guy that wants to get in there and do the work," he said. "That was one of the hardest parts of the job."
Trevino said that as the months went on, living day to day on a ship didn't get any easier.
"Some days you wake up and think you can take it," he said. "Then you realize you've looked at the same people for the last nine months and you just want to strangle somebody."
Then there was the fact that the ship was in constant motion.
"Walking in straight lines down the ship was impossible," he said. "For as big as those ships are, they get to rocking pretty good."
But his ship's extended deployment wasn't a complete surprise to Jacob. "I honestly don't think that it hit me too hard because I kind of expected it," he said. "There was just something in the back of my mind that said it was going to happen."
He said two close friends on board and mail from loved ones was helpful in getting him through the deployment.
"Being out there some days, just getting an e-mail from friends or family can take you through the rest of the day," he said.
He also found relief in his art. During his time on the ship Jacob painted two murals, one on his division officer's door with the tag line "No Air Support Without Ground Support," and another on a set of double doors leading into a technician shop from the hangar. The second one had a large skull with wings and read "The Motorheads of Aviation."
Though the ship's return was celebrated across the country, Jacob doesn't think what he did was above or beyond anyone else's contribution.
"I don't think it's really hit me yet that I'm the war hero America says we are," he said. "We were practically out of harm's way. I just don't feel as big a hero as they say."
But Jacob said it did feel good to know that President Bush thought enough of their contribution to visit the ship. He stood behind him as Bush made his speech and even got to shake his hand.
"It was really humbling, considering he is one of the most powerful men in the world, just to shake his hand," he said. "He said 'Good job, Trevino.' To hear him say that felt really good."
But hero or not, Terri said she and Joe could not be any more proud.
"I know he doesn't consider himself a hero. He knew it was something that needed to be done," she said. "He's always been my hero. I'm just proud of him that he was willing to step up and do what needed to be done.
"I'm just glad he's home," she said.