Members of Duluth's 148th Air Guard unit begin return homeAmid the noise and commotion of the return home of about 60 Air National Guard members Tuesday, Sean and Debbie O’Connor stood off to the side and quietly shared a long, silent kiss.
By: Brandon Stahl, Duluth News Tribune
Amid the noise and commotion of the return home of about 60 Air National Guard members Tuesday, Sean and Debbie O’Connor stood off to the side and quietly shared a long, silent kiss.
“It’s awesome,” Debbie O’Connor said. “I feel complete again.”
Emotions were high for many members of the 148th who returned from deployment in Iraq, even though many had been on multiple deployments before.
“It always feels good to be home,” said Sean O’Connor, who was going home to four kids. “It’s not too bad being away, except for you’re always wondering how your family is doing.”
Emily Ciochetto provided an exact count of how long her boyfriend of three years, Josh Modine, had been away.
“Seven weeks, one day, 12 hours,” she said. Though it was Modine’s third deployment since the two were together, the feeling of waiting for him to return, she said, “is horrible.”
“It’s just that feeling of hurry up and wait,” she said.
The airmen deployed to Balad Air Base in Iraq for two missions: reconnaissance and providing support for ground troops, 148th spokeswoman Maj. Audra Flanagan said. Returning home Tuesday were 12 pilots flying F-16s and about 50 airmen in two air transports. About 200 airmen will return to Duluth during the next week, Flanagan said.
In November, when Noah Feehan was being deployed, his wife, Jenny, said she had a tough time not crying.
“My emotions are more in check,” she said Tuesday, before he came home. “But that’s for now.”
When they reunited with son, Jack, along, however, there were a few tears.
“I’m just so proud of her,” Noah Feehan said. “I’m proud of everyone.”
As the guard members were in the air, President Obama used his inauguration speech to reiterate that troop withdrawals would begin in Iraq. Many of the airmen Tuesday wouldn’t comment on whether they thought that would be good for Iraq, but they did say they saw progress while stationed there.
“There are a lot better conditions,” said Keith Erickson, who returned home from his fourth deployment. “There’s a lot less danger now. I think we’ve given the Iraqi people a chance to make their own government.”