After six months in Iraq, more than a dozen Oklahoma Air National Guardsmen are home.
It's the first big group to return to Tulsa since recent reports in the national media criticizing the war in Iraq, saying the American public is being kept in the dark. But for waiting families, this day was nothing but good news.
News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin says it was one of the biggest military welcome home groups I've ever seen at Tulsa International Airport.
In addition to families, local veterans and the Blue Star Moms all lined up cheering and waving flags. For loved ones, as always, the minutes it took for the airmen to make it from the plane to their waiting arms seemed like forever. National Guardman's mother Tina Garner: "This is not the first time, he went right after 9-11. He also was in Desert Storm, so it's just business as usual for him."
It's been anything but business as usual for families here at home. National Guardman's father Rick Lane: "We've just been on edge all the time, you see everything on the news about the boys over there and every time you know, you think is it one of ours?"
National Guardman's sister Alicia Ball: "His last request before he life was that I don't watch the news so I wouldn't worry about him, so I don't watch the news." But when the moment came they'd been waiting for, all fears were forgotten.
Providing security for American bases and visiting dignitaries in Iraq, members of the 138th hadn't seen home for months. Senior Airman Kyle Lane: â€œIt's awesome, it's awesome, it's really green here compared to over there."
Most didn't want to comment on the recent controversy about how well the war effort is actually going. Tina Garner: "I've seen some of it, but I try not to listen to too much of it, because it can bog you down. I'm a firm believer that if it's God's will, everything will work out alright." Rick Lane: "I'm proud of him, proud of him serving our country and all of our young men over there putting their lives on the line for us so we can stay free, just we appreciate em."
Sgt. Rodney Garner: "I believe we're making, we're making progress. But it's not gonna be something that's gonna happen overnight." Despite all he's seen and been through in five tours, Sgt. Rodney Garner says he believes in what he's doing. "Yes m'am. I wouldn't be here if I didn't."
14 members of the 138th returned home Friday morning. The Air National Guard fighter wing is based in Tulsa.
There are still about 800 Oklahoma National Guardsmen serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.