SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Family and friends gathered together to welcome home some of Missouri's heroes at the Remington Event Center on Thursday afternoon. Members of the Missouri National Guard's 935th Aviation Support Battalion were deployed to Kuwait in August 2012 and returned home to the cheers of a large crowd that included state dignitaries.
Loved ones of the 935th didn't let anything keep them from getting to their soldiers. They simply hugged them for the first time in nearly a year.
"Extremely wonderful. (We) waited forever for this," said Jennifer Jensen.
Jensen welcomed her husband home as she held the newest member of the family. She realized she was pregnant with her son just two days after her husband was deployed.
"It's kind of a shock yet. I don't know yet; haven't figured it all out. Hopefully I will pretty soon," said Staff Sgt. Mitchell Jensen about the addition of a third child to his family.
The Jensens are not alone. Amanda Harper brought her daughter into the world without her husband by her side. It was a scary experience for this new mom.
"It was really hard. It was sad," she said.
Spc. Chris Harper said his heart started fluttering the moment he saw his little girl for the first time. He found the experience difficult to describe.
"It's outstanding. I wish I could've been there for all of it," Harper said.
For the troops, reuniting with their children, spouses, parents, and siblings couldn't come soon enough.
Staff Sgt. Jared Pyatt's little sister, Lindsay Pyatt, was the first one to welcome him back. As soon as the soldiers were dismissed, she ran up to her brother for a hug.
"It's been a long time. I've been waiting. I'm excited to see my brother," she said.
This marked the second deployment for many members of the battalion. The dedicated service comes with a sacrifice for loved ones left behind.
"There's a lot to take care of at home. It's hard for both of us to keep up keeping up, let alone three kids and newborn and being pregnant. She had it pretty hard," Jensen said of his wife.
"Not having that person to give you a hug, the person that makes you feel all right to be there, that was hard," Jennifer Jensen said.
But those painful memories of months apart, worrying and waiting, were seemingly replaced with the sheer joy of having daddy back home.
"I love him," said Mason Jensen, 5, the oldest of the Jensens' three children.
The 935th maintained and transported military equipment while in Kuwait, successfully completing more than 600 missions.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun