EAST GRANBY, Conn. (WTNH) — Just in time for the holidays, around 50 Connecticut Air National Guard members returned to East Granby on a charter flight. As the song says, there’s no place like home for the holidays, and home is where the 103rd Airlift Wing is, after a four-month deployment.
“It was good. It was long, but we’re back home, and that’s what matters,” said Connecticut Air National Guard member Brian Weller, holding two of his four sons.
The 103rd is known as the Flying Yankees. They fly and maintain C-130 cargo planes. About 100 men and women deployed on a foggy morning back in August, not knowing what exactly they would be doing halfway around the globe in Djibouti. Their work still has to be kept quiet.
“It’s a lot of counter-extremist operations as well as great power competition. A lot of nations competing for influence over there,” explained Lt. Steven Tucker of the Connecticut Air National Guard.
It is important to work, but it left empty chairs at many dining tables.
“Thanksgiving was rather sad without him,” said Jill McClenning, whose son was deployed. “So, the whole family will be together, and it will be very exciting.”
There is another reason they wanted these troops back home today. It’s the Guard’s birthday. The Connecticut National Guard was first formed on Dec. 13, 1636.
The other half of the unit flies back on their C-130s Wednesday. They are dealing with the weather along their route. The important thing is that they will all be home with their families for the holidays.
“These guys are my everything, so to be home with them and have free time in the aftermath of this deployment with my family, dedicated time to them, it’s everything. It’s everything,” emphasized Lt. Col. Neil Byrne of the Connecticut Air National Guard.
The only people happier than they were to be back were the families waiting to welcome them.
“I’m really, really happy to have him here,” said Ava Byrne, his daughter. How important is it to have him home for Christmas? “Really important.”
And Connecticut is really thankful for their service and sacrifice.