ON BOARD A C-17 (HawaiiNewsNow) - Before Sunday's historic, happy, homecoming for Schofield soldiers, there was a flight home that crossed a dozen times zones. We were on-board the C-17 and had exclusive TV access to the troops as they landed in Hawaii.
Just seconds before we landed, the loadmaster announces on the plane's intercom, "On behalf of the crew, I'd like to say congratulations on a job well done!"
And as the C-17 glided back to the islands, a happy reality sank in. This was the last time these soldiers would ever return from the war in Iraq.
Then, the loadmaster said, "Welcome home, guys, welcome to Hawaii!" Cheers and applause erupted through the plane.
The crew from the Hawaii Air National Guard - proud to bring their fellow Hawaii warriors home in a jet nicknamed "Spirit of Kamehameha" - hoisted the American and state flags for all to see.
"Lot of emotions involved with it," says SGM Charles Rosado. "It was really emotional, before we got on the aircraft, knowing that this was the last time that we were coming, that we were going to be there (in Iraq)."
And then, a last walk off the plane and handshakes of appreciation. The 25th Infantry Division headquarters - the last unit out of Iraq - made the 40-plus hour journey home, tired, hungry, and homesick. But before the reunion with families, they still had one more short trip - by bus to Wheeler Army Airfield. Then, they had to process through - checking in their weapons, getting briefed, and completing paperwork.
With anxious families oh-so-close, they made their final formation of this deployment. Then, after more than year away, they marched into the cheering crowd and waiting arms of their loved ones.