TULSA, Okla. - More than 150 Oklahoma National Guardsmen are back with their families after a 9-month deployment.
The 120th Engineer Battalion served in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Among the soldiers was SPC Blake Cradduck. His first child was born while he was deployed.
SPC Cradduck tells KRMG that the separation was difficult. Cradduck says, "He's 7 months old now. It's hard."
Leading the troops to Afghanistan and back was LTC Jackie Ritter. He has been deployed before but this was his first to leave behind a wife and kids. LTC Ritter says, "The big challenge is, especially when you have young kids, a year is a lot."
LTC Ritter's wife Melissa and their two children, 10-year-old Noah and 2-year-old Tatum, were sitting in the front row, waiting for their hero to come home. Ritter tells KRMG that being separated from her husband for nearly a year wasn't easy. Ritter says, "It hasn't been all rainbows and butterflies but I couldn't be more proud of him."
Just before 10 A.M., LTC Ritter marched his men into a hangar packed with hundreds of family and friends for a welcome home ceremony.
Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, the adjutant general for Oklahoma, made some brief remarks before dismissing the citizen soldiers into the arms of their loved ones.
Deering was proud to remind the families and friends gathered that each member of the 120th that deployed to Afghanistan returned home alive.
The 120th is trained and equipped to provide combat engineering support to forward combat elements, as well as, the construction of roads, buildings, military support facilities and aircraft support facilities.