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Loved Ones Greet Seymour Johnson Airmen

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GOLDSBORO, N.C. — Approximately 70 members of the Fourth Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base are back at home after serving in the Middle East.

Three buses carrying the airmen reached the base around 7:40 a.m., three hours later thananticipated. The airmen flew to Germany, then to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where they boarded buses for the final leg of their trip. Base officials say a traffic accident on Interstate 95 delayed the return.

Once the airmen stepped off the bus, they were greeted by wing interim commander, Col. David Russell.

Among those returning were maintenance workers, medical crews and service personnel who were deployed in January. They saw banners celebrating their return, including one that read, "Welcome Home, We Missed You."

Staff Sgt. Kimmie Coates, who is part of a decontamination unit, said she did not know what to expect from her first deployment.

"We were on pins and needles for most of the time, but when we got the word that there was no possibility of anything like that would happen in the portion of the world we were in, we were really happy about that," she said.

One of the people eager to return was Capt. David Kent. If his wife, Steffani, had delivered the couple's daughter on her due date, which was Thursday, David would have missed it. His wife said he arrived home just in time.

Seymour Johnson sent F-15-E Strike Eagle jets to fly over Iraq.

The Department of Defense announced Friday that Capt. Eric B. Das, 30, of Amarillo, Texas, was killed in action April 7 while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Das was assigned to the 333rd Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.

Das was the pilot of an F-15E that went down April 7 during a combat mission in Iraq. The incident remains under investigation.

The other F-15 crewmember's whereabouts is still unknown and search efforts continue.

More than 900 Seymour Johnson airmen remain overseas.

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