Contributed photo

Jacob Sanchez Duran waves an American flag to catch his father’s attention as the USNS Mercy passes by in San Diego Bay, California on its way to a deployment in Los Angeles. Petty Officer 2nd Class Josue Sanchez Duran is the father of eight-year-old Jacob and the husband of Montague, Michigan native Kristina (Anderson) Sanchez Duran.

SAN DIEGO, CA. — Montague native Kristina (Anderson) Sanchez Duran stood on the Coronado side of the San Diego Bay with her eight-year-old son, Jacob, trying to get a glimpse of her husband, Petty Officer 2nd Class Josue Sanchez Duran, as his ship, the USNS Mercy, passed by from the port to the Pacific Ocean to make the trip up the California coast to provide aid to Los Angeles’ battle against the deadly worldwide Coronavirus pandemic.

That was the scene on Monday afternoon, March 23, then the ship began its journey to serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients previously admitted to the overwhelmed shore-based hospitals in Los Angeles. Young Jacob was waving an American flag to catch his father’s attention.

“We went down to the bay to watch the ship leaving,” Kristina said. “We weren’t able to pick him out on deck, but he called later to tell say he saw us.”

The Naval ship with 900 beds arrived in the Los Angeles port on Friday, March 27. While headed to Los Angeles, the sailors aboard the hospital ship hurriedly made preparations.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Sanchez Duran, who his wife said has not served aboard a ship in his nearly 10 years in the Navy, learned just the day before the ship left that he was going to be deployed. “Many of the sailors knew on Wednesday they would be on the ship,”Kristina added.

She said the Navy estimates the USNS Mercy could be deployed in Los Angeles from three to six months. “They will see how long — it’s day to day.”

Kristina said this will be the longest she and her husband have been separated by his duty since six years ago when he was deployed for nine months in Cuba. At that time he had been stationed at the Naval Station Great Lakes near Chicago so Kristina and her toddler lived with her parents, Greg and Peggy Anderson, in Montague while Josue was deployed.

Kristina said she had her family and the familiarity of her hometown for support.

This time she doesn’t have that support.

“I’m going to pray a lot for patience,” she said. ‘We will stay in contact. We will send care packages and call. He may have time off to visit. We will hang in there day to day and rely on others for help.”

Kristina, who was a school teacher until Jacob was born, is helping her son with his online school work while they are staying in their home, and only leaving for essentials, like groceries.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Sanchez Duran works in the area of mental health. Kristina said he normally works with U.S. Marines based in San Diego.

This current crisis brings on a longing to return home to Montague for Kristina. “We hope to move there someday.” The Montague High School graduate said she is grateful for growing up in a small town.

Kristina met her husband in San Antonio, Texas where she took her first teaching job. He was stationed there.

She is keeping a positive attitude in the current crisis. “We will get through this. He will do what he has to do.

The deployment of Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) in Los Angeles will allow shore base hospitals to focus their efforts on COVID-19 cases. One of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) missions is Defense Support of Civil Authorities. DoD is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the lead federal agency, as well as state, local and public health authorities in helping protect the health and safety of the American people.