Families Welcome Home 128 Airmen, After 7 Months in Middle East

Apr 29, 2019, 1:33 PM | Updated: 7:23 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — No matter how many times you welcome a loved one home from deployment, it never seems to get old.

Krystal Jones used to serve in the military herself, now she supports her husband, Karl.

“I’m kind of used to the lifestyle. It doesn’t get easier, saying goodbye though,” Krystal said. “And you still get the same nerves, every time they come home, and you want everything perfect every time. No, it doesn’t get any easier.”

Karl Jones was among the 128 members of the 729th Air Control Squadron who stepped off a plane Monday, returning from a seven month deployment to Syria.

“Obviously, it wasn’t easy to leave them,” Karl said. “But, when you have three beautiful girls like this, you want to give back to them. Give mommy a chance to have a couple days off, you know?”

Karl’s youngest daughter Kehlani, was just four days old when he left.

“She was a completely different person. Completely different,” Jones said.

Meagan VanFleet was among the dozens of family and friends, welcoming back loved ones Monday. Her children held signs, as she waited with them, along the front row of the crowd.

“(It’s) like a dream,” VanFleet said, about having her husband, Nathan back. “(It) doesn’t feel real.”

Members of the 729th helped provide aircraft control, and surveillance to airspace, in the effort against ISIS. Three air control groups total, rotate for deployments, each serving seven months at a time, every 12 to 18 months.

“Every time ground forces needed air power to influence the battlefield, the 729th made sure that air power was in the right space, at the right time, doing the right things to contribute substantively to the degradation of ISIS,” Colonel John Bartoli, of the 552nd Air Control Group explained.

“Our airmen provide that order to chaos, but let me tell you, we couldn’t do what we do, without the families, and the friends that you see here today,” Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Digsby, of the 729th added. “They really are what allow us to do what we do, and be the world’s greatest air force.”

For those service members and their families back at home, it’s part of the job.

“I’m just. I’m so proud of him for the sacrifice he makes for us,” Meagan VanFleet said.

“I don’t know what I would do without him,” Krystal Jones said of her husband. “He’s my emotional support, for sure.”


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Families Welcome Home 128 Airmen, After 7 Months in Middle East