It was a special homecoming at Billings Logan International Airport Wednesday night, with Montana National Guard soldiers returning after nearly a year-long deployment.
Montana's governor, the adjutant general, family and friends welcomed the the 1063rd Maintenance Company back at the Edwards Jet Center.
Tears and hugs wre plentiful at the reunion, as a difficult deployment in Kuwait finally came to an end,
"Frankly, without our family members, we wouldn't been able to get through," said Cap. Jacob Pancheau, 1063rd commander. "The family members back here in Montana are the rock. They're the support system. And yeah, we're incredibly thankful to be reunited with them because that's what got us to that deployment."
Soldiers from all over the state make up the 1063rd, which is based in Billings.
The battalion deployed to Kuwait last October.
"It feels wonderful," Pancheau said. "It was definitely a long 10 months or so. And it was tough for everyone being away from friends, being away from family. But it's also what we trained to do. Day to day, we're soldiers and we serve the people of the United States. And so, in that sense, it was a cool opportunity for us to get that experience. But we're very happy to be home."
Gov. Greg Gianforte and Major General Pete Hronek, Montana adjutant feneral, joined families as they welcomed their loved ones back home,
"We welcome 122 of them back home," Gianforte said. "They had put their lives on hold for a year. I wanted to be here personally to welcome them home and, and thank them for their service to our state and our country."
"They just have that propensity to serve and do great things for the state and nation," Hronek said.
And the governor says even he was moved by the sacrifice that not only these men and women made, but the families as well.
"I was talking to a mom earlier," Gianforte said. "Her little kids, they had made signs. They were so anxious to see their daddy. And it's great to have him back in Montana again."
"My best to the families," Hronek said. "They sacrificed so much. They actually have sometimes a tougher job. I'm just very proud of the families that they've done so well and support them and they come home to a welcoming environment."
A beautiful salute as Montana welcomed home some of its heroes with families and community once again, reunited after months apart.
"It's a very humbling experience to get to see that the community of Billings and the community of Montana rally around us in that way," Pancheau said. "We're thankful to be home and thankful for everyone's support."