Of all the days Beth Jennings has experienced or are still to come, Tuesday will be among the most special.
For one, it was the 18th wedding anniversary for her and her husband, Marshall. But it also meant Marshall was coming home — for good.
Beth Jennings and her two children were among the throng of families who awaited the 391st Fighter Squadron, about 150 of whom arrived at Mountain Home Air Force Base on Tuesday night following a nearly seven-month deployment to southwest Asia.
It was the sixth deployment for Master Sgt. Jennings, who is set to retire in three months.
“It’s very special, getting him back on the date I got him,” Beth said. “We first met when he was stationed here, and we’ve bounced around, so to have it be at his last base, with a big welcome like this, it’s incredible. There’s a lot of great energy in this hangar today.”
With a massive American flag covering one end of the Bold Tigers’ hangar, family members anxiously waited on portable bleachers, while kids burned off energy in a bounce house or colored signs awaiting their loved ones.
As the commercial jet landed at 9:15 p.m., the returning airmen were mobbed one by one, holding children bigger than when they last saw them, spouses full of tears and relatives elated to have them back home safely.
“It’s beautiful, just getting to see my family again ... every hour (of the flight) was painfully long,” said Staff Sgt. Fabio Rojas, holding his 14-month-old son Leo, and laughing that “he forgot about me, but that’s OK.”
To have the deployment be successful and their loved ones safe was the most important part, but the relief for the families to not miss birthdays, important events or those everyday moments is nearly as big.
“I’m always the bad guy, and I’d call my husband to tell him what my son might’ve done, and he wouldn’t want to have to talk to him about it, so it’ll be nice to let him help with the discipline,” said Kelly Davis, whose husband, Christopher, was on his first deployment.
Approximately 350 members of the 391st were deployed, their homecomings spread out over a few weeks. With Easter and Mother’s Day around the corner, the timing was even more welcome.
“It’s always the best feeling to have them back home, and I’m sure everyone has a bunch of plans already set for weeks,” Beth Jennings said. “I’d wanted so bad to cook for my husband, but I know he’s excited to use his smoker again and make something for us.”