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SD Airmen: Homecoming Never Gets Old

February 12, 2010, 9:27 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

SD Airmen: Homecoming Never Gets Old
SIOUX FALLS, SD - More than 200 South Dakota families are settling in with their loved ones after hundreds of airman returned from a nearly three month deployment to Iraq. Members of the South Dakota Air National Guard touched down in Sioux Falls Friday night, some after serving in their third or fourth deployment.

"It's an amazing feeling coming home," Staff Sgt. Paul Doohen said.

But when these airmen step back onto South Dakota soil for the first time in nearly three months it is anything but routine. Lieutenant Colonel Chris Johnson never gets tired of the warm welcomes from his four year old son. 

"It's great, great every time. It's a great feeling to come back, even though it's a little chilly here compared to there, nothing beats coming home. It's a great feeling," Lt. Col. Johnson said.

And the wives who have been without their husbands are always happy to have them home. 

"I'm speechless right now. I'm so glad that they're finally home and more excited for him to see his son mainly," Laura Doohen said.

This is the third homecoming for Doohen and her husband, Staff Sgt. Paul Doohen. 

"It never gets old, especially when you have little guys and little ones around it makes it even more special," Staff Sgt. Doohen said.

The South Dakota Air Guard usually only deploys for about three months at a time, but its long enough for these families.

"We're pretty lucky for us they're kind of short, just a couple months. There are a lot of guys staying over for a lot longer, so it's a lot of trips but at least ours are short and we get to get home quick," Lt. Col. Johnson said.

"It's going to be great not being a single parent anymore. Our community has been really good at helping the kids and me and bringing meals but its really nice to have my co-parent here, it's really great," Lt. Col. Johnson's wife Tracy Johnson said. 

And while it wasn't the first time these airmen were welcomed home by waving flags and families the sky high feelings never get old.

A total of 228 airmen were welcomed home Friday night. They left at the beginning of December and weren't home for Christmas, but some of the wives say coming home right before Valentine's Day is perfect timing.

65 airmen will stay deployed overseas in Southwest Asia, Europe and Haiti.



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