PARKERSBURG - A few families are just a little more thankful today after their loved ones returned Wednesday from a tour of duty in Africa.
Members of the West Virginia Army National Guard Detachment 28 (C-12) Operational Support Airlift Command were welcomed home Wednesday at the Williamstown Readiness Center by friends, family and fellow soldiers.
Detachment 28 spent more than 9 months providing Fixed Wing General Support to the AFRICOM theater in Djibouti, Africa. During their deployment the soldiers conducted 164 missions and executed more than 1,275 flight hours, transporting 110,610 pounds of cargo and 822 passengers.
Photo by Michael Erb
First Lt. Michael Howard of the West Virginia Army National Guard Detachment 28 (C-12) Operational Support Airlift Command speaks to a gathering of friends and family while detachment members, from left to right, CW4 Scott Lohr, CW2 Don Shamblen, Sgt. First Class Ron Stanley and Sgt. First Class Shawn Gates, stand at attention.
Five of the nine detachment members attended Wednesday's ceremony, with several more either already home or returning within the day.
All those gathered said they were grateful to be home.
Staff Sgt. Shawn Gates hugged and kissed his wife Jenny and his daughter Alyssa.
"It's a breath of fresh air to be home with my family, especially for Thanksgiving," Shawn Gates said. "I'm just a mess of emotions right now."
"We're just so excited they are home and home safely," Jenny Gates said. "It's been a long time."
"It's been hard not having him here," Alyssa Gates said.
Shawn Gates had another thankful moment as he was formally promoted to the rank of staff sergeant during a small presentation at the welcome home ceremony.
"I got promoted in September, but we held off on the official promotion until my family could be here," he said.
CW2 Don Shamblen was greeted by his wife Cheryl and his grandson Trey. Cheryl Shamblen said the timing of her husband's return, the day before Thanksgiving, was perfect.
"This is something to be thankful for, to have him back safe, and I'm so proud of his service," she said.
"It's great," Don Shamblen said. "I can't wait to be all the way home."
"It feels better than good," to be home, said First Lt. Michael Howard. "We couldn't have timed it any better, everything just lined up to have us here for Thanksgiving. "Everyone is back home and safe."
Howard said he was most excited to be spending Thanksgiving with his family.
"You miss out on so much while you're gone, whether it's a week or a year," he said. "Family time is the most important time, and I'm just excited to spend time with them, to catch up."