Several armed service members and their families have a very special reason to be thankful this year: A Thanksgiving spent together.
On Tuesday, Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 returned from their deployment, reuniting with loved ones in a series of emotional photographs and video.
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“Any time you’ve got a unit that is scheduled to come home around a major holiday like Thanksgiving, you’re obviously looking at the calendar and wanting to get (them) back to their families before the holidays,” said Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort spokesman Capt. Clay Groover.
Groover spoke from personal experience about the uncertainty in returning from deployment, saying that service members generally get an idea of when they’re supposed to return, but that any expectations should be managed.
“You get your hopes up, but you try not to get them up too high because things can change all the time,” said Groover. “Like flight schedules and weather and mission requirements and those sorts of things.”
The Marines of Squadron 224 likely knew what was being targeted for their return date, according to Groover, but compartmentalizing and keeping expectations in check is a vital reality of their time spent deployed.
“While you’re over there you are very focused on the mission and the fight and what you are doing,” said Groover. “Once you set foot on American soil and you see your family and your wife and, for me, pick up your son, for the first time in six months, that is when you get a true feeling of mission accomplishment and you feel proud to serve, and it makes that last several months worth it.”
Returning home on a holiday that celebrates togetherness and gratitude adds a special significance to their return, according to Groover.
“There’s a lot of families who have a lot to be thankful for within that squadron this Thanksgiving, and we’re happy for them.”