WHEELER ARMY AIR FIELD (KHNL) - A red, white and blue homecoming for Hawaii-based troops. After helping Iraqis in their quest for independence, close to 200 soldiers with the 45th Sustainment Brigade get to celebrate the Fourth of July with their families.
Lauren Gauditz has been without her husband for a year. Major Derek Gauditz returned home from Iraq Tuesday evening.
"I guess it doesn't feel real just yet," said Lauren Gauditz. "I guess when I see him home, and we're able to combine back as a family, it's going to feel more real to me."
And their five children - Jonathan, Jeremy, Aaron, Faye, and Judah -- have missed their dad, especially his special qualities.
"His hugs, his kisses," said five-year-old Faye.
"All the fun times that we've been able to play with him," added 12-year-old Jonathan.
After a moment of waiting, soldiers of the 45th Sustainment Brigade march in.
Faye spots her dad. After some formalities, Lauren and the kids look for Derek.
They've waited an entire year for this moment.
"I missed their smiles, their hugs, just seeing them every day," said Maj. Derek Gauditz, an Army engineer. It sure makes you appreciate when you don't have it around you."
"Vvery emotional," added his wife Lauren. "When I saw him I was about to cry, just to have him back now."
And being back in time to celebrate the nation's birthday makes it that much more special.
Being here on the Fourth of July, being here in Hawaii, and getting to celebrate this independence, reuniting with the family, it's just wonderful," said Derek Gauditz. "You can't put it into words. It's just so great."
And for this young daughter, Faye's glad to have her daddy home.
"I missed him very much, and I loved him very much," she said.
The Gauditz family plans to celebrate Derek's homecoming at the Hale Koa Resort in Waikiki.
About a third of the 45th Sustainment Brigade is still in Iraq.