BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Christmas came early for 70 Louisiana military families. Members of the 239th Military Police Company returned Saturday from a one-year deployment in Iraq. During their tour of duty, the soldiers trained Iraqi police in support of "Operation New Dawn."
You could see expressions of hope, happiness and healing on the faces of hundreds who were once tasked with saying goodbye. They waved flags of freedom and flashed their cameras to capture a new moment, one of relief and a readiness to reunite with their loved ones.
They waited eagerly on one plane. When it hit the tarmac, they could hardly wait for the door to swing open.
"Daddy's on that plane. Give him a big hug and a kiss. Blow kisses. He's in the window. Can you wave," Natalie Cowart told her children.
The 70 men and women of the 239th Military Police were greeted by Governor Bobby Jindal and their superiors as they stepped off the airplane.
Their relatives watched, waited patiently for their turn. You could see the twinkle in their eyes, the smiles on their faces. Suddenly they were overcome with deep emotion.
"You can't really describe it. It's the happiest day of my life," Sergeant Luke Cowart said.
Sergeant Cowart was seeing his daughter, Macy for the first time since he welcomed her into the world. His son Colton was a year older. Cowart's wife treasured the touching time.
"Oh, gosh! The wait is definitely worth the moment, for sure," Natalie Cowart said.
No one knows that better than perhaps Sergeant Cowart's mother, Mitzi.
"Oh, man. I didn't sleep last night at all. I was cooking and making Mississippi Mud for him, and preparing," Mitzi Cowart said.
They all prepared bright signs, special outfits and Louisiana dishes to show their soldier their appreciation.
The Adjutant General of the Louisiana National Guard, Brigadier General Glenn Curtis, knows the feeling well.
"There is no better Christmas present than to get our soldiers home," Brig. Gen. Curtis said.
The 239th Military Police Company was the last unit of Louisiana guardsmen serving in Iraq.
There are still over 500 Louisiana soldiers serving in different countries overseas.
The next unit is scheduled to return in March.