GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A mixture of smiles and tears filled the Air National Guard base hangar Tuesday morning. More than 200 members of NMCB 133 returned to south Mississippi.
The homecoming crowd that greeted the Seabees included Grant Kelly. Before the Seabees plane landed, the six year old colored a picture titled "your family will be together again." The kindergartner described his artwork by saying, "This is some people and their daddy's coming home."
Grant's picture was about to come to life. His dad's Seabee battalion was on its way home. Grant called the anticipation, "Really exciting." Once Dad was home, the family would open the Christmas presents still under their holiday tree.
"I'm going to give him a letter, and I'm going to hug him," the six-year-old said.
His mom shared Grant's enthusiasm, saying she was both excited and anxious about Gabe Kelly's return to the coast.
For eight long months, children of NMCB 133 played in south Mississippi, while their moms, their dads, or their brothers provided humanitarian aid in the Pacific. Joann Neuman's brother is with NMCB 133.
"He's my baby brother, and I can't wait to see him," the Texas woman said.
Neuman's mother was even more excited.
"Is that him at the top of the stairs?" she asked, her eyes focused on the charter plane door that brought 133 back to Gulfport.
His return was the best birthday present Diane Cosgrove ever received. The flag waving Texan drove 13 hours to hold her son in her arms again.
"Awesome. Nothing better. Priceless," is how she described Chris Cosgrove's return.
While NMCB 133 was in the Pacific region, six babies were born. Moms like Donna Sanders held the infants in their arms, waiting for that magical moment when dads would see their newborns for the very first time.
"Oh my nerves are awful. I just can't wait for him to get here," Sanders said.
A few feet away, a commotion broke out. It was Mrs. Cosgrove.
"That's him, that's Chris," she yelled.
Chris Cosgrove and about a third of the Seabees with NMCB 133 stepped off a plane, and into the waiting arms of their loved ones.
"Welcome home guys," a PR representative said as the Seabees walked toward the hangar, and their family members.
After hugging his fiancee, Chris Cosgrove moved to his mother. The birthday girl embraced him and said, "I missed you so much."
The Seabee seemed overwhelmed by the emotions of the moment.
"I just can't believe I'm home. It's good to be home," he said.
At that same moment, Gabe Kelly saw his boys Grant and Nolan, and his wife Nicole. His third deployment was over, and his family was waiting for him. After a long embrace, the elder Kelly said, "The best time is getting home. I'm glad it's over."