WHEELER ARMY AIR FIELD (KHNL) - It was a festive homecoming for more than 150 soldiers Thursday at Wheeler Army Air Field.
There were some tears of joy and many more smiles for the 25th Transportation Company. They were away from loved ones for 15 months, but Thursday, the wait was over.
On one side, soldiers check-in, while their families eagerly wait on the other side.
Despite the half hour delay, it's their being home that's well-worth the wait.
"It's real hard, just got to look at pictures, call them, let them know what's going on back home," 25th Transportation Company soldier Diamond Kaaiheu said. "Just listen to island music, that keeps your drive."
"I missed some key things in our lives, couple birthdays, them growing up a little more, their development, my son going through taekwondo, my daughter going through gymnastics," Soldier Austin Durham said.
But they won't miss those tender moments anymore.
"I hope he doesn't have to go back for awhile, I know it's his job, it's his duty to go, so I support whatever he does, but it's really hard and I just hope that he gets to rest for awhile," Kailua resident Zandra Kaaiheu said.
That rest should last around a year. During their 15-month deployment, the soldiers played a vital role in the movement of heavy-armored tactical vehicles and other supplies throughout Western Iraq.
"I miss being able to say, you're giving them a bath tonight and I miss just having him there every single night before I go to sleep and the kids miss him being there to play with and you miss out when they grow up," Jessica Durham said.
Signs of praise and respect for the soldiers all over Wheeler Army Air Field. Thursday was their day to enjoy with family and friends. The end of a tour of duty is the start of a new journey in their lives.