NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KFSM)- A local state senator currently serving in the Air Force returned home Friday (Dec. 11) after a tour in the Middle East.
Lt. Col. Jim Hendren was deployed to Qatar for three months. Friday afternoon, about 40 friends and family welcomed the officer home, while the Gravette High School Band also played a tribute.
"I'm overwhelmed. I was not expecting this kind of turnout," Hendren said. "Usually it's just your family especially when you're coming back by yourself in the National Guard, so to see this many friends and family turn out is just overwhelming."
His wife Tammy said this Thanksgiving was the first time her husband hadn't been home with the family. She said she is grateful to have him home for Christmas, but said she understands his call to serve.
Hendren served active duty for eight years before retiring. Tammy said he then went back in after 9/11.
"He just felt this responsibility to get back in," Tammy said. "So he's been in the Missouri National Guard since then."
Hendren said he's happy to be back on American soil, but said he can't help to think about the men and women still serving overseas.
"It's always mixed emotions when you leave friends out there because I know all my friends that I left are going to be missing Christmas," Hendren said. "So it's great to be home, it's great to be with my family."
Hendren is an Arkansas senator in western Benton County, and also the senate majority leader.