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It came as a shock to many, including Arbutus Fourth of July parade organizer George Kendrick, when at 12:29 p.m. on this year's holiday there was no sound or sight of the four A-10 jets that traditionally streak across the sky to kick off the event.

That surprise has faded to understanding as Kendrick learned the Maryland Air National Guard unit couldn't perform its annual flyover because they hadn't returned from a 90-day deployment in Afghanistan.

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"It's honorable and it's great for us to serve the community, but our real mission is supporting our ongoing operations," said Lt. Col. Charles Kohler of the Maryland Air National Guard on Wednesday.

Kohler called the flyovers of the Independence Day parades a "patriotic duty" that the pilots enjoy.

"It was a little disappointing," Kendrick said of the unit's absence. "I wish they would have called me and said they can't do it, but we're not that important in the grand scheme of things when it comes to what they have to do.

"For what they have done for us, I'm grateful," he said.

The mobilization of the Maryland Air National Guard had been planned for two years, Kohler said.

In all, the Maryland Air National Guard sent 341 members to Afghanistan, including 295 members from the 104 Fighter Squadron. It is members of that squadron who perform the flyovers, Kohler said.

All of the Guard members returned home safely toBaltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airportlast weekend after completing missions that took them into combat situations, Kohler said.

"They're very proud of their accomplishments," Kohler said. "They did some great things while they were deployed."

Kohler noted the planes and pilots should be available to perform flyovers next year.

Kendrick said he plans on having them return to his parade.

"We'll put in our permit like we always do in January or February," Kendrick said. "Hopefully, we'll have them back."

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