Family and friends expected their loved ones to return around 10 a.m. Sunday but the foggy weather in Anchorage pushed those plans back until 1 in the afternoon, making people even more anxious to see the faces they had be missing for so long.
The Baka kids are not old enough to remember the first time their father left on deployment. However, mother and Army wife Cathy Baka counted the passing days until her husband returned home.
"I think it's been building for a few days. There’s excitement and then there’s nervousness for what it’s going to be like, but for the most part excitement prevails," said Cathy Baka.
Excitement was a feeling throughout the crowd at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson.
"Yeah, I just want my dad to go hiking with me," said 7 year old Dante Lee.
"I mean I love him. He's an awesome guy. He's fun to hang around and he's outgoing," said Jake Nelson about his father Sergeant First Class Rodney Nelson.
300 Spartans returned after nearly a year in the eastern providence of Afghanistan. Many of them had been deployed more than once, like squadron commander Michael Baka, returning from his third deployment overseas.
"It’s so wonderful. I've been waiting a long time for this,” said Baka, “Third deployment, first time in Afghanistan, but it's the first time they've all been big enough to remember it."
"Kind of a mix of emotions, you're excited and you're happy and then you're just relieved, all at the same time," said Cathy Baka.
It's a mix of emotions even more families and friends will experience as another 2,400 brigade soldiers still in Afghanistan return home over the next 3 weeks.
Contact Mallory Peebles