BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - 130 National Guardsmen with the 205th Engineer Battalion arrived back in Louisiana Tuesday, after a 9 month tour of duty in Kuwait. The 205th set out on their deployment earlier this year, in February. The unit is based out of Bogalusa, made up of men and women from Baton Rouge down to New Orleans.
In the crowds that were gathered at the Baton Rouge Metro Airport, were wives holding babies that would be meeting fathers for the first time since birth. Aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers were also in the sea of people holding welcome home signs. But for a couple of kids from Albany, Louisiana, they were waiting for another family member.
"He's coming! He's coming!" Haley Nabarre squealed, as she waited to see the flight carrying her uncle.
For the 9-year-old, the wait to see her uncle was about to end.
"Is he coming? He's coming! He's coming!" she said when a plane landed and taxied down the runway. But when it disappeared from her sight, she was a little confused.
"Where'd he go?" she asked.
Haley wasn't the only one waiting there. She and several cousins, aunts and her grandmother were all waiting for Specialist Jonathan Prattini, who was returning from his first deployment.
Prattini's fiance was also waiting with the group.
When the plane finally rolled to a stop in front of the crowd, there was a loud cheer and posters waving in the air.
"Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes," Haley said.
Once the men in uniform began their walk down the stairs of the plane, Haley's eyes scanned each one looking for her uncle. Where is he, she asked over and over, until finally someone spotted him.
There was a dash to find him again, once he made it in the crowd. Tears followed once they were able to grab him and hug him.
Prattini says he kept in touch with his family via Skype, but that was hard because of the time difference and his work schedule. Now, he says, there's nothing that can keep them away from each other.
That's especially true for the 15 nieces and nephews who've been waiting for his return.
"I made a promise while I was over there that when I got home, I'm bringing them fishing," Spc. Prattini said.
Prattini's mom says having him back home is the best Christmas present she could ask for.
"But I guess everyone here feels that way," she said.