Fort Bragg, N.C. — Hundreds of soldiers with the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade touched down at Fort Bragg Wednesday evening after a year-long deployment to Afghanistan.
The five children of Staff Sgt. Michael Hayes – Emilee, 15, Courtney, 14, Mike, 11, Jaylen, 6, and Precious, 5 – have been waiting anxiously for their father to come home.
"(There are) no words to describe how proud I am of him, that he fights for our country and he's finally coming back in just a few minutes," Emilee Hayes said before the soldiers landed at Fort Bragg.
Her father missed Courtney getting her learner's permit, Precious' preschool graduation, birthdays, holidays and Father's Day, but the children say they look forward to making up for lost time.
Making this homecoming more special, "he's the only parent that we have left," Emilee Hayes said.
Their mother died two days before Michael Hayes deployed to Afghanistan.
"Without him, who else do we have?" Courtney Hayes said.
Jennifer and Glen Churchill also reunited Wednesday, though they had only spent about three weeks apart. Both were deployed to Afghanistan with the 82nd CAB, but Jennifer Churchill was scheduled to return to Fort Bragg earlier than her husband.
Back home, they have new challenges to look forward to.
"I'm pregnant," Jennifer Churchill said.
"We found out right before she left. We kind of timed it so that she can get pregnent right before the tour was over, ready to start our family," added Glen Churchill.
The entire 82nd CAB is due home by the end of the month.