Lemoore pilots receive warm welcome home

FRESNO, Calif.

The pilots have been conducting missions near Afghanistan for the past six months.

Whether you have been a Navy wife for decades, or are a newlywed, days like this one are filled with anticipation and joy. Some of the pilots and officers that returned today have only been home 5 months in the past year and a half.

The final moments seem to last forever, no matter how long you've been married or many deployments you've made it through.

Amanda Henriques has been married for five years. It's her husbands second deployment and she's just happy to have him home so they can resume life.

"Relaxing, vacation, it's been a long road, especially the past year and a half so I'm just looking forward to doing normal day to day things. Sitting on the couch, drinking a beer, hanging out," Henriques said.

As the rose-bearing pilots and officers walked to greet their wives, the smile on Jennifer Garcia's face said it all. The longtime Navy wife calls herself the "mother hen" of the squadron wives - the experienced one who keeps it all together.

"I'm really proud of the girls in our squadron, they've had to face many challenges with their children being sick, I had to put my dog down with my husband gone, family members that pass. We have to do all that, which is everyday life," Garcia said.

Once Amanda reached Matt's arms, he was all that mattered. The man nicknamed "Tapatio" by fellow aviators, says he has missed so much being away from home.

"Weekends is one, you are all the time flying non stop on the boat so that's one thing you definitely miss. You miss being able to do whatever you want obviously, whenever you want, when you are not at work. Going hiking, the mountains," Matthew Henriques said.

When the group touched down Tuesday, Commanding Officer Fernando Garcia hugged Jennifer with a major sense of relief. During dangerous missions over the Middle East, no one was lost but there were definitely some stressful days.

"We had a day where there was a big sandstorm off the coast of Pakistan, where every single aircraft had to land aided by the carrier. Everybody had to be latched up and the carrier landed every single aircraft. It was unbelievable," Garcia said.

It's unclear when the three squadrons will deploy again, so aviators and their families are just savoring the moment. For many children, the comfort they find in dads arms is beyond words.

Just the pilots and jets came home Tuesday. The rest of the crew members will return home Wednesday.

Since many deployments are being extended a few months, these families felt very grateful their loved ones were only gone six months.

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