We left on the busses around 0300 hours on our way to the airport. We had to hang out in the hanger until 0700 hours for our plane to depart. So, it was a long night and most of us didn’t sleep at all. I tried to get some rest wherever I could but it was hard since we were always having a roll call or something.
We all walked out to our Southwest Airlines plane out in the rain. It was raining just as it had every day since we’ve been there. I figured the weather in Phoenix would be a beautiful 76 degrees with clear, sunny skies. I was looking forward to enjoying the nice Arizona weather. Sure enough, once we were in the air, headed south, the sky began to clear up.
Everyone on the plane began to get excited once we approached Phoenix. We came in from the north and then went east towards Scottsdale. At first I saw the Phoenix Mountains. Then I saw Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountain. Then, that’s when I began to realize, that we were coming home. We were coming home and our mission was complete. We were finished. I left more then a year ago, unsure whether I’d be coming back and I was coming home now.
The plane landed at Sky Harbor Airport and taxied over to the hanger where a group of motorcycles, media, and family awaited. Flags were being hung and waived everywhere and the crowds were cheering. The plane stopped and the door opened. We began to exit and depart down the steps to the sound of revving motorcycles and marching band music. I was home. We all felt proud as we went to drop off our bags and get into formation. We would be marching into the hanger where the crowds of families awaited.
We marched our way into the hanger and the 1st Sergeant put us to attention. He called the commander, who said just a few words. He mentioned to the crowd the number of combat missions we’ve accomplished and that the unit had come home 100%. He kept it short and dismissed us. We all rushed to our families and I rushed to see mine. The sense of happiness had overwhelmed me at the beginning. I had made it back home alive and from now on, I could get on with the rest of my life.