HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – The wait is over. After being away from home for nearly a year during a 9 month deployment to Iraq, members of the 163rd Field Artillery Regiment are back in Evansville. For siblings Asa, Allena Jo and Alora, it’s been an adjustment without their mother.

“Just her not being in the house,” says Asa. Allena Jo adds, “It is difficult, just because it’s a mom. Everyone says that they wouldn’t be able to do it without their mom for a year.” For younger sister Alora, the thing she is most excited for was quite simple. “My mommy,” says Alora.

There were similar adjustments for the Griffin family of Evansville. Their loved one, Ernie Griffin, returned home for the second time during this deployment. The family says their youngest daughter’s health scare brought him home for a couple weeks earlier this year.

“We have really made the most of it,” says Natalie Griffin, Ernie’s wife. “I know we, together as a family of 3, have come together much more and all 3 of us are much stronger because of it.”

Tears, smiles, and hugs were plentiful at Evansville Regional Airport for reunions more than 300 days in the making. National Guard soldier Mackenzie Gore reunited with her dad and step-mom for the first time since August of 2022.

“Quite a buildup the last few days,” says Josh Gore. “Then the landing, yeah, that took even longer than the past few days did.” Mackenzie says the welcome home celebration was somewhat overwhelming after nine months in the Middle East.

“In Iraq, it’s really, really quiet,” explains Gore. “It was like not much color, it was very deserty, green, and in here it’s really, really bright and there’s a lot. It was a little bit overwhelming at first, but I’m happy to be here.”

With their soldiers back home, it’s a return to normal for local families.

“I’m excited for him to help me with my math homework, because it was rough this year,” jokes Ella Griffin. Ella’s sister, Brooklynn Sallee, adds, “I’m going into my senior year, so it’s going to be really nice having him, you know, just go through all my lasts.”

Ella also says she planned to give her dad a spa treatment, joking that even if he refuses, she will still go forward with her plans.

For the Gore family, love, support and having their first meal together were on the top of their lists.

“I’m not letting her go for a while,” says Lindsey Gore. “It’s been awesome to see how much they’ve supported me,” adds Mackenzie. “They’ve been my best support system that I’ve ever had. It’s great to be back.”