JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – About 100 members of the Florida National Guard returned home Wednesday to their loved ones as the 202nd Red Horse Squadron flew in to Jacksonville International Airport.
There were tears and lots of hugs as members of the Guard saw their families for the first time in months.
“Its good to be back now,” said Alex Nolan, a tech sergeant. “Missing these guys is tough. Got a lot of time to make it up.”
“Speechless. It’s great,” said Master Sgt. Andrew Gessner. “I’ve been looking forward to it for six months.”
The unit was deployed to the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. They worked on air bases, hangars, runways and performed other heavy repairs and construction projects.
The children of Sgt. First Class Eric Masciulli held on to their teddy bears as they waited for their father.
“Eric made them daddy bears, which are made out of his actual uniform,” explained his wife, Erin. “So we taught them when you hug the daddy bear, daddy can feel it.”
They jumped into their father’s arms the moment they saw him.
“We’ve been gone eight months this time, and last time I came home, this guy was born. And I met him for the first time when he was 5 months old, and now he’s going to be 5 years old on June 1st,” Masciulli said. “So this is pretty cool that he got to experience this twice in such a short period of time in his life.”
News4Jax was there when Masciulli met his son for the first time after returning home from deployment nearly 5 years ago. He now also says a 3-year-old daughter.
He said being away from his family is never easy.
“Every day I was gone, was almost heart wrenching when I had to call them on the phone and this one saying, ‘Daddy, I want you to come home,’ Masciulli said. “So I’m just so glad to be here so he doesn’t have to ask that question any more.”