WILMINGTON -- The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Diligence has been working hard at sea, on a mission for nearly two months. Meanwhile, the wives of the crew members have been working diligently on a special project of their own. Kate Fears's husband Doug has been at sea for about 50 days. He's set to return on the Coast Guard Cutter Diligence on Monday. Captain Fears and his crew will have a surprise waiting for them at home. Mrs. Fears said, "We are making a 32-foot Hawaiian lei to drape over the bow of the Coast Guard Cutter Diligence when she pulls back into port." Welcoming ships with a lei is an old navy tradition. The Coast Guard members' wives thought it would be a good way to welcome their men back as well. "We want to make sure that they know that we appreciate what they are doing while they are away and we just want them to feel special when they come back into port," Fears said. Fears and the other coast guard wives have been collecting plastic grocery bags from local stores to make the lei's. "It's taken over 3,000 plastic grocery bags to make individual flowers. Three bags per flower, and we attach it to a 50-foot line." Erica Byrne looks at the project as a way to bond with other women in her situation. She said, "It's a friendship, it's definitely a friendship. Like, yesterday we were out for five hours, and it's just a great time to bond and laugh and get to know one another." She thinks the lei will show her husband how much he is appreciated and missed while at sea. "Our husbands or our men are out there and doing stuff like this helps them feel a lot more comfortable about what they are doing." While the lei has different meanings to every one, fears hopes its universal message will conveyed. If you want to see the ship being graced with this labor of love lei, it's scheduled to return to port on Monday.
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