09/10/09 — Rest of the 336th Rockets arrive back at SJAFB

View Archive

Rest of the 336th Rockets arrive back at SJAFB

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 10, 2009 1:46 PM

Full Size


Ashley and Heather Dupree wait with their mom, Christie, to welcome their father, Master Sgt. Thomas Dupree, home from Afghanistan. Wednesday's arrival was the second round of returning Rocketeers.

Full Size


Two-year-old Aidan Preciado sits on the shoulders of Brittany Squires as they hold a sign welcoming 336th Staff Sgt. Kevin Morse home Wednesday. They were one of the many families anxiously waiting for their loved ones to arrive back at Seymour Johnson AFB.

Rose and Emma Johnson were the only ones not cheering when those 336th Rocketeers who did not return early Tuesday morning started making their way toward the crowd of emotional family members, friends and fellow airmen waiting along the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base flight line Wednesday.

They didn't even know where they were -- or that their "daddy," Dell, was coming home after having been gone since the end of April.

But their mother, Cyndi, brought them to the homecoming anyway.

"They are our children," she said, looking down the two leashes at the family dogs. "(Emma's) going to freak when she sees him."

The rest of the Rocketeers are now back in Goldsboro after more than four months at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

And many of them will now have to get used to the things that have changed since the day they boarded that transport to war.

Like Master Sgt. Thomas Dupree, whose daughters, 12-year-old Heather and 9-year-old Ashley, both got braces while he was deployed.

And Staff Sgt. Homar Rodriguez, who came home to a new house furnished by his wife, Jasmine.

"I'm nervous," Mrs. Rodriguez said. "I just hope he likes it."

The Dupree girls were nervous, too.

The fact that they both have braces is not the only thing that changed while their father was in the desert.

"We got a dog," Heather said. "We're hoping he'll like her."

The girls' mother, Christie, had a different kind of nerves -- the anxiousness to feel relief that comes with letting go of the emotions associated with time spent away from a partner and best friend for months on end.

"It was really hard the night he left," she said. "Trying to do everything by myself with two girls is hard."

Maybe that's why the Duprees got into place along the flight line long before his plane touched down.

"We just couldn't wait," Mrs. Dupree said.

And when he finally came into view, they ran to greet him, to take him home for "Whatever Dad wants to do."

"We're excited," Mrs. Dupree said. "We're excited and we're ready."

Now that they are home, those airmen who returned Wednesday will go through a re-integration course on base, a program designed to get their minds away from the war zone, said Tech. Sgt. Andrea Schaub from the Airman and Family Readiness Center.

"It's to get their heads back in the game," she said. "We know they just want to be home with their families, but it's all needed."