RICHMOND, Va. — Nearly 20 years after being wrongly convicted for rape and murder, the "Norfolk 4" are celebrating their newly issued pardons, and more importantly — their newly approved leave requests, sources confirmed today.
In a widely-praised decision from Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the four sailors are now free men — except in the eyes of their command— which has already vowed to continue to treat them like children once they return from leave.
"Coming straight from the prison system made me these sailors' impromptu commander," McAuliffe told reporters. "So I chose to act like it. Thinking about the men's hardships and needs, I grabbed their paperwork, and immediately signed off on it."
He added: "No hesitation, no going over the exact specifics of their liberty plan, no switching up the approved leave dates last minute, and no pointless delays. Just like a real military leader ... right?"
Dumbfounded, and with ink still dripping off the forms, the four sailors took to the streets of a very different Norfolk from what they remembered prior to being incarcerated. Derek Tice took a moment during his quest to catch up on drinking 18 years worth of beer to tell reporters about his newfound freedom.
"Its an incredible feeling," he said. "The convictions sucked, but to be honest, prison isn't that different from being in surface warfare. But getting my leave approved after 18 years? Indescribable. Maybe now I can finally cause liberty incidents and get arrested for things I've actually done — maybe even overseas!"
His falsely-accused companions expressed similar sentiments. Some had already restarted their EAS countdown, while others carried on in the classic military past-time —bitching.
Most centered on the fifth convicted sailor, Omar Ballard.
Omar, who is the forensically-backed, self-confessed, sole perpetrator of the crimes, has been labeled "the ultimate blue falcon," surpassing even "assholes who ask questions at the end of operations briefs."
However, life can not go back to the way it was for these four men. The world has changed, and they are beginning the challenging task of learning it.
"The outside sure is weird. Not bad, but definitely not like it used to be," said Danial Williams. "When we were arrested, it was taboo to be openly-gay. Now, this weekend most of the Atlantic Fleet will be sitting in a bar called the 'Blue Weenie', sipping on apple-tinis."
"People can now be openly-Navy without worrying about a bunch of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals flinging insults," Williams added. "Well, except the Marine Corps that is, but they're animals."