A big welcome home 288th Sapper Unit returns from Afghanistan

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Megan Huffman of West Point stood at the airport gates with her baby girl, Adabelle Huffman, holding a sign that read, “I’ve been waiting my whole life to meet my daddy.”
Huffman gave birth to 6-month-old Adabelle while her husband was deployed in Afghanistan.
“It’s been hard, but with family around it makes it easier,” she said. “I’m very excited. We did Skype and email and Facebook and I’ve emailed pictures but that’s all he’s seen of her.”
When Spc. Jacob Huffman got off the plane he hugged and kissed his family, he took Adabelle in his arms and ducked around the corner to spend their first moments together.
“I’ve been gone since last October and this is the first time actually meeting my daughter,” he said. “It feels wonderful to hold her.”
Cheers erupted, flags waved and signs were hoisted above heads as a blue and red Southwest Airlines plane touched down at the Tupelo Regional Airport on Tuesday morning.
The plane was holding Army National Guardsmen returning from their year deployment in Afghanistan – the 288th Sapper Unit out of Houston.
Wives, girlfriends and fiancees were dressed up and anxious. Parents and children were ready to see their sons and fathers.
Allie and Johnathan Hillhouse’s son, Brantly, was old enough to remember his dad when he deployed.
“It’s been hard because I’ve never been through a deployment and it’s been hard on (Brantly), always asking where daddy is,” Allie Hillhouse said. “He’s not old enough to know what a deployment is but he knows daddy is gone. But he knows he’s coming home today.”
She got to see her husband for two weeks during his leave but has been away from him since last October besides those few days.
Spc. John Daniel Gillon couldn’t explain how it felt to be home.
“Words cannot describe,” he said. “The first thing I did was kiss my fiancee and now I plan to eat some Mississippi food. I’m thinking something with gravy.”
It was the first time he’s kissed his fiancee since his leave in January and before that, October. “It’s been since January but you can just call it a year,” he said.
Staff Sgt. Jesse Garner returned from his third deployment, the first two to Iraq, and he is going to catch up with his kids.
“I’m going to go eat a nice meal at Harvey’s and then go take a nap and enjoy the kids for a week or two,” he said.
The unit performed route clearance while deployed, going out each day to make sure roads were clear of improvised explosives and obstructions for coalition forces, Afghan forces and local nationals.

See more photos of the return in today’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.

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