HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - It was a long nine-month deployment at Guantanamo Bay for both the 78 Coast Guardsmen with the Port Security Unit 308 and their families.
But Wednesday's reunion at Stennis International Airport was as sweet as the separation was tough.
Diane Lind of Diamondhead and her daughters, Meghan and Lindsey are ready to celebrate.
Lind's son, Michael, is coming back home.
"It's really wonderful that all these people are out here to celebrate this day that we've all been anticipating for the last nine months," she said. "He was gone for his birthday so we have a real nice birthday cake ready for him. A little belated, but it was just made today; we didn't order it nine months ago."
The Coast Guardsmen served the role of the Maritime Security Detachment for Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay under the direction of U.S. Southern Command.
Among the responsibilities for PSU 308 during the deployment in Cuba was port security, search and rescue, visitor transportation and marijuana seizures.
Not only did the return bring out family members, but it also brought out Hancock High School's band, dancers, cheerleaders, soccer team and color guard.
But when the plane landed, the real celebration began.
"It's a good thing just stepping off the plane," said Michael Lind. "Anything from here on out just icing on the cake."
It was the first deployment for Jonathan Thompson of Columbia, Miss.
"Probably one of the best experiences I've ever been through," he said. "Great people, great crew, awesome shipmates. Good experience. We had a really good mission."
For Adam and Wendy Goins of Auburn, it was a tough deployment, but it made the reunion that much better.
"We have three young boys this time, and they're at home in school," Wendy Goins said. "It's been a long, rough year."
"Each deployment is different," he said. "This one was a little bit easier being a little closer to home. But still the separation takes a toll."
Her first thought as she waited?
"Why did he have to be at the back of the plane?"