Morrisville, N.C. — In nine months, so much can change.
Seven-year-old Avery Mullins is taller, her fresh face starring in some commercials. Her 3-year-old sister Bailey is no longer in diapers and always on the move.
For the past nine months, Leigh Mullins had to be both mom and dad. But on Wednesday, she reprised her role as a wife who was waiting for her best friend, golf partner and life partner to come home.
Mullins and her girls were among the family members who gathered to welcome six members of the North Carolina National Guard returning home after nine months in Afghanistan, just in time for Thanksgiving.
“We’ve been counting down the days, blessed that he’s coming in a day before Thanksgiving,” Leigh Mullins said, anticipating the arrival of her husband, Chief Warrant Officer Ty Mullins. “We’re just very excited and happy about it.”
Months of waiting turned to mere minutes as the plane touched down at Army Aviation Support Facility in Morrisville about 1 p.m.
“When they open the door, we can run out there and see daddy,” Avery Mullins said. “Not yet. Not yet. Not until the door opens.”
The doors opened and the girls leapt into their father’s open arms.
“How’ve you girls been?” Ty Mullins asked his daughters before hugging his wife.
Daddy is home for Thanksgiving -- home for good. Those long nine months erased in one embrace.
How to describe such happiness? “You feel it,” said Leigh Mullins, wiping away tears.
“It feels good,” Ty Mullins said. “I’ve got a lovely family. They’ve been very supportive.”
Tears, hugs and hearty handshakes for a job well done greeted all the soldiers during the homecoming. And Leigh Mullins had a message for those still waiting for loved ones to come home.
“I wish all the other families whose soldiers are over there a good Thanksgiving, and they’re in our thoughts as well,” she said.