Waving American flags and holding signs saying, "Welcoming Home Daddy," families gathered at the Groton Airport Sunday afternoon.
Mothers eagerly awaited the arrival of their children turned soldiers who were finally home safe after fighting overseas. Their return made Mother's Day even more special than it already is.
"It's even too much to think about," Cris Christensen, of Uncasville, said as she waited for her son, Rob. "Just waiting for the bus to pull in and see him get off. There are no words for it. It's the best gift I could have."
Finally, the buses carrying the 150 soldiers from the 1109th Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot pulled in.A son teared up as he looked for his father. Families held hands, with the anticipation written on their faces.
When the bus doors opened, the soldiers were first greeted by a mother, grandmother and Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who expressed her thanks for their service.
Then the time came to throw their arms around the soldiers, who have spent the past 10 months repairing helicopters in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. The unit provides aviation maintenance and logistics help to 14 Northeast states and Washington, D.C., and it supports Connecticut's fleet of Black Hawk helicopters.
For Rob Christensen, it meant finally holding his baby girl, McKenzie, again.
"I had a baby in December," Christensen said. "I only got to see her for six days, so coming home for my wife's first Mother's Day is pretty cool."
Now Christensen will get to hold his baby girl for a lot longer.
"I'm just glad to be home and happy everyone gets to see their families again," Christensen said.
Nearby, other families gripped their loved ones a lot tighter, grateful for their safe return.
Everyone in Christensen's unit is now home, but there are more than 350 soldiers and airmen from Connecticut still deployed.
More than 900 are expected to be deployed by the end of the year.