Tulsa Soldier Home From Final Deployment

Tuesday, March 10th 2009, 4:46 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- An Oklahoma family is celebrating after a very special homecoming.  They're happy because a Tulsa soldier is now back, safe and sound in Oklahoma after being deployed to Iraq.  It wasn't his first deployment to the war zone, not even his second or third.

Like so many military families, one gathered at the airport to welcome home a soldier.

"It's just beating 90 miles an hour.  He's just so anxious to get home," said Kay Pittenger, Justin Neal's aunt.

They're excited.  They're nervous. Most of all, they are thankful that Sgt. Justin Neal is safe.

"Going to be able to physically feel him and touch him and hold him and hug him and just be glad he's here," said Justin's sister, Rebecca Gray.

Justin Neal was 17 when he joined the military on the Fourth of July.

After his mother's death and Dad's massive stroke when he was 13, home has been Tulsa where he was raised by an uncle and aunt.

They were at the airport on Tuesday.

"I just praise God, praise God," said his aunt, Kay Pittenger.

And, so are many other family members, including Rebecca Gray, who is waiting to see her little brother.

"I just want to jump on him and be like I'm so glad your home.  He'll just be like really, sister, seriously, back off of me.  People are watching," said Rebecca Gray.

"It's great.  I love it.  It's been a long time coming," said Justin Neal as he returned.

His return has been a longer time coming than many others since this was his fourth deployment in Iraq.

"He's been in nine years and almost four of that has been spent in Iraq," said his aunt, Kay Pittenger.

Justin says those welcoming him home mean the world to him.

"Everything.  They're my family.  They're my friends.  It means the world," said Sgt. Justin Neal.

For his family and him, there have been homecomings before.  But, this one is extra special because this fourth deployment is his final one.       

In a few months, he'll return to civilian life for good.

"It's just awesome to know that he doesn't have to go back," said Justin's sister, Rebecca Gray.

Justin has three months left in the military and then he'll move back to Tulsa to be near family and friends.

"Just hang out and be with the ones I love.  Play a lot of golf and catch up.  Catch up," said Sgt. Justin Neal.