DULUTH - It was all smiles, hugs and kisses as members of the 148th Fighter Wing returned home Friday afternoon.
The members who returned Friday, July 27, were gone for nearly four months and for Melissa Vanderburg, of Superior, it was draining to have her husband Master Sgt. Trever Vanderburg gone that long. This was his fourth deployment since the two married and the second for their 4-year-old daughter Temperance.
"It seems like this has been the longest deployment since we've been together," Melissa Vanderburg said. "This time Temperance was aware he was gone, so she would ask all the time when he was coming home. I think the only thing that made it a little easier was him FaceTiming her a couple days a week."
The last time her dad deployed, Temperance was only 2 years old, so she wasn't aware of what was going on. This time, Temperance was really excited to see her dad again.
When asked what the first thing she was going to do when she saw her dad, Temperance said with a big smile on her face that she was going to ask him for a "Barbie camper."
Of course when the time came, Temperance did what someone would expect every little girl to do when they see their dad for the first time in nearly four months. She ran into her dad's arms and gave him a big hug.
For Miala Rappana, of Duluth, this was her first time coping with her boyfriend being deployed.
"I had a friend that went through deployment but that was completely different than being in a relationship," she said.
Rappana said she barely got any sleep the night before because she was so excited to see her boyfriend again. They had only been together for about three months when he was deployed overseas, but being able to talk to him while he was away has helped.
"Since he's been gone we've communicated as much as we can whether it's good, bad or ugly. Then we just talked it out until we got each other on ground zero," she said. "It's been hard, but I love him very much so it's also been easy."
The members who returned Friday were on an air expeditionary force deployment in an undisclosed location in southwest Asia in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR). Members were assigned to the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, which supports the combined joint task force-OIR by generating, executing and sustaining combat airpower across the region.
For the past eight months nearly half to the 148th base population was deployed overseas; by the end of August everyone should be home.