188th Fighter Wing Returns Home
Nearly 300 airmen with the 188th Fighter Wing are returning home to Fort Smith from a deployment to Afghanistan.
They arrived home to teary faces and lots of decorated signs Friday morning.
“I missed my daddy,” one toddler said as she reached for her dad, Jason McKinley.
“I was just glad to see them,” McKinley said, with his two daughters in his arms. “It took a while to find them with all of the people here. So…I’m just happy to be home.”
McKinley wasn’t alone.
For Eric Blackman, coming home Friday meant getting to hold his son, Garrett William for the first time. Garrett was born while Blackman was overseas, and just turned one month old.
“I saw him a little bit on Skype but there’s nothing like holding him for the first time,” Blackman said. “Getting to hold him makes it all worth it.”
Melissa Watson, another teary-eyed face in the crowd, waiting to hold her husband in her arms again.
Melissa and Mark Watson were married for one week before Mark deployed.
“They moved our deployment up on us so we left a week after we got married,” Mark said. with Melissa wrapped around him. “But no big deal - just glad to be home now.”
Finally back together, and ready to go on the honeymoon they’ve been waiting for.
“Being back home now, it’ll just make the honeymoon better,” Mark said.
Hundreds of families in the crowd with hundreds of stories to tell.
Regardless, all of the airmen are just happy to be back home.
The deployment was part of an Air Expeditionary Forces rotation, which the 188th shared with the 175th wing based out of Baltimore.
Most of the airmen returning home were gone for three months. Although some of the men returning home were overseas for closer to 6 months.
Approximately 375 airmen were deployed in Afghanistan for this rotation.
Another group of airmen along with the 188th’s A-10C Thunderbolt II Warthogs will return next week.