KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A long tour of duty in the Middle East ended Thursday as hundreds of Missouri National Guard soldiers returned home.
When two large military airplanes landed Thursday, they brought home mothers, fathers, sons and daughters to metro families who've missed them for nearly a year as they served the United States.
More than 400 members of the 138th Infantry Regiment of the Missouri National Guard are now home, having left 10 months ago for Qatar where they boosted security for U.S. forces in the Middle East.
The jubilation hasn't set in for Lt. Col. Doug McConnell, a native of the Columbia, Missouri, area.
"It's great, but as a commander, I'm in commander mode," he said.
His unit flew from Qatar to El Paso, Texas, where a snowstorm threatened to prevent their return to Kansas City. But in the end, the wait was worth it.
"Getting home from overseas, especially at this time of year, it's awesome," he said. "They hung in there and got Christmas with their families, so that's great. That's worth a lot."
Serving their nation was a privilege soldiers like Staff Sgt. Cody Hathaway cherish. Since he's been away, Hathaway missed his young son's first steps.
"It's very emotional," he said. "It's so good getting good service over where we were at. I had to look at them through a filtered lens for so long. It's even hard for him to recognize me because I'm not on a two- or three-inch screen."
Those on the homefront are happy to have their loved ones back in the Show Me State again.
Brian Graves is overjoyed to have his wife, Master Sgt. Cindra Graves, back home. Graves knows this life well after spending 20 years of his own serving in the U.S. Army.
"It's a little hard while she's away, but I know that she's safe and doing the right things and taking care of soldiers," Brian Graves said. "That's what we sent her over there for."
The returned soldiers will now enter the National Guard's Yellow Ribbon program, which is meant to help returning soldiers readjust to stateside life.
Another battalion of Missouri National Guard personnel also returned in the St. Louis area Thursday afternoon.