VIENNA, Ohio (WKBN) – The last of more than 110 airmen from the Youngstown Air Reserve Station returned Friday from their four-month deployment to Southeast Asia as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The reservists fulfilled an important U.S. role to halt the advancement of ISIL and flew relief missions to Afghanistan and Iraq. The Reservists air dropped 54 tons of food and water to starving Yazidi refugees during the humanitarian relief operation in the Sinjar Mountain region of Iraq as well as humanitarian airdrop missions near the town of Amirili, Iraq.
“These are our Northeast Ohio heroes that are coming back. They have done their duty, what we have asked them to do,” Youngstown Air Reserve Station Commander James Dignan said. “Many Americans and those in northeast Ohio saw the effect that our community has on the world. The impact on Mount Sinjar and this battle against ISIS was led by northeast Ohio airmen.”
“We knew that everything that was coming out of our airplane would save someone’s life, was extremely important, to ferrying our troops all over the region, just did a fantastic job. They did it with professionalism and honor and we returned home safely,” Lt. Col. John Boccieri of the 910th Airlift Wing said.
Tressa Speight was waiting for her husband Justin. She said it’s been too long for her and her two kids to be without their dad.
“She was barely sitting up when he left. Now she is crawling and trying to walk,” Speight said.
Others, like Chris Chiappini, have months of unfinished business to catch up on, especially since he just got engaged to his fiance Kacie before she left.
“Three days later, she had to leave and she has been on deployment, so I have not seen her since. Looking forward to her arrival,” Chiappini said.
As the C-130’s flew overhead, anxious loved ones on the ground erupted with excitement. They arrived to applause, but it is the first hug, kiss and handshake that is most rewarding for the men and women.
“It feels good to be home. We were out there doing big things and making a difference in the world, but it never replaces your family,” Technical Sgt. Anthony Flores of the 910th Airlift Wing said.
For Tressa Speight, that moment had to wait because her husband was one of the last off the plane. Her son Roman could not hide his excitement any longer and ran to his arms.
“Just so glad to have him home, just want to get him home now. So proud of him,” she said.
“It was great. Very good. A lot of time to make up. A lot,” Justin Speight said.