OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) – After spending nearly a year thousands of miles from family and friends, an Owensboro-based national guard unit is back home.

The 206th Engineer Battalion of the Kentucky National Guard arrived this afternoon.

After hearing the jet engine from today’s flight back home, and the cheers in the distance they came back to the national guard armory to hear and see their loved ones again.

“It was long, but with everybody around, we kept ourselves kind of entertained,” said Spc. Justin Butler, who is originally from Henderson.

“It feels great. I’m excited. A little nervous. So many feelings,” adds Sgt. Michael Randle Jr.

“I had to hug my son,” said his mother, Michelle.

“Stayed up most of the night. Couldn’t sleep good waiting for him,” added his father, Michael Sr.

About 160 members came back from their mission as part of operation inherent resolve in the Middle East working in Iraq and other countries. They ran several missions and projects. 

“With all the support and everything that we have, it’s not really been that much different. We were still able to come back home and everything. It was a good experience overall,” Spc. Butler said.

For Sgt. Randle and his family, being apart for nearly a year felt much longer.

“It was challenging. I have a little boy at home. That time away made it a little hard,” said Sgt. Randle.

“Seemed like forever,” added Randle Sr. “Seemed like a lot longer than almost a year. We were talking about that on the way up, felt almost like two really.”

A long wait to come back, but a moment they’ll keep close for a long time.

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(This story was originally published on June 11, 2020)