LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — After ten months of helping to defend freedom in Kosovo, the members of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team returned home this morning, arriving at Blue Grass Airport at 11:37 a.m., with the final approach taking the enormous aircraft right over Keeneland and Versailles Road.
“It’s overwhelming, It really is. It’s awesome,” said Specialist Caleb Burrow while holding his 3-year-old son he hadn’t seen in nearly a year.
Video calls were really all the soldiers had to rely on to stay in touch with family members during their mission. The wife of one soldier who came off the plane had twins who were born while they were away.
“I speak for all of our soldiers, the timing is perfect to get home just in time for the holidays, so I’m very thankful,” said Lt. Col. Jason Mendez. His wife and three children were here as well, holding signs welcoming everyone home.
“Everyone was excited looking out the windows and seeing families outside,” Lt. Col. Mendez said of the atmosphere on the plane before the doors opened following the long flight.
Mendez is a veteran. Specialist Jacob Mink was wrapping up his first deployment.
“Mission was good. It was a long, grueling experience, but at the end, we got to come home to our families,” he said.
Spending nearly a full year away from their families was easily the hardest part of the mission for these Infantry members, so to get home one week before Thanksgiving makes it even more special.
I’m going to stuff myself on Thanksgiving,” Specialist Mink joked.
He’s earned it. They all have. And now they can share it with family at home, rather than on a military base located on the other side of the world.