NORMAN — Little girls wore red, white and blue ribbons in their hair, boys sported ball caps with stars and stripes, and Oklahoma families were reunited Tuesday in Lexington.
Around 50 Oklahoma National Guard members were welcomed home at the Army Aviation Support Facility after a nearly one-yearlong deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Many tears and smiles were seen throughout the building Tuesday when loved ones were finally able to hug each other for the first time in almost a year. The battalion was mobilized in mid-September.
“I’m really ecstatic and relieved,” said Caley Atkins, wife of Richard Atkins.
“I’m very happy to be home with my wife and family,” Richard Atkins said.
Richard Atkins and his older brother, David, were deployed together and returned home together. Richard said he is looking forward to going home and relaxing. His home will now be in Midwest City, since their house was damaged in the Moore tornado.
Others will be returning home to other parts of the state.
“We’re very happy that he’s home and we’re very proud of him,” said Kathy Johnson, mother of Ryan Johnson, of Bridgecreek.
The welcome home ceremony was for those in Detachment 1, Company C, 2-149th General Support Aviation Battalion.
During their deployment, there were 335 medivac missions and more than 380 soldiers, civilians and children were saved. They provided combat air ambulances to commanders on the ground in Afghanistan.
Those returning home Tuesday included Kyle Anderson, David Atkins, Richard Atkins, James Austin, Chad Beals, Christopher Bowling, Jason Burwick, Sebastian Chanthavong, Johnathan Council, Levi Farmer, Robert Frey, Nicholas Garmon, Zachary Granger, David Grojean, Quentin Hastings, Robert Hernandez, Jack Higginbotham, Nathan Honeycutt, Nathan Koivisto, Keith Koppenhaver, Anton Koprivnik, John Jenkins, Daniel Johnson, Christopher Lackey, Jason Leehan, Michael Lynch, Jonathan Naber, Richard Nezat, Dean Olson, Richard Pindel, Kyle Sevier, Zachary Smith, Paul Shook, Brian Thacker, David Tillman, Brandon Williams, Devin Williams and Aaron Withrow.