Hundreds of Seabees are back home after a long deployment to the Middle East.
The first plane rolled into the Air National Guard early Friday morning, just after midnight. As the excited crowd stood ready to kickoff the homecoming party, the first of the troops stepped off the plane to a greeting of hearty handshakes. Long awaited hugs and kisses soon followed.
Military homecomings are emotional affairs. Tears and hugs and smiles abound. Families are reunited after many months of nervousness and worry.
"It's unbelievable. It's just.... we're so blessed that they all came home safe and we're just happy to have them all home now," one woman said.
Homecoming happiness helps ease the many months of separation. Military commitment often means difficult duty.
Wayne Ballard with NMCB 74 said being deployed has its highs and lows.
"The high part is knowing there's a time it comes to an end and you get to come home."
The second wave of Seabees also arrived early. Jenette Eastman brought a small flag and flowers to the homecoming.
Returning troops stepped onto the red carpet and breathed the sand free air of South Mississippi.
The Eastman family reunited with hugs and happiness. Similar tears and embraces surrounded them.
Chad Roach's children stayed up late making a special sign. Daddy is happy to be home.
"I'm glad to be home for the short time we're going to be home. It feels good to be with my family again," Roach said.
The pair of homecoming celebrations included more than 300 Seabees. Most are with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74. Others are assigned to NMCB 133 and the 20th Naval Construction Regiment.