Christmas stands still for Hurlburt, Eglin Airmen

Senior Airman Robert McKlevey holds his 3-month-old son Cayden for the first time Jan. 19 at deployment control center at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Cayden was born while Airman McKlevey was deployed to Iraq from the 16th Civil Engineer Squadron. He and more than 100 Airmen from Hurlburt Field and neighboring Eglin Air Force base returned to the Florida panhandle after deploying to Southwest Asia.

Senior Airman Robert McKlevey holds his 3-month-old son Cayden for the first time Jan. 19 at deployment control center at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Cayden was born while Airman McKlevey was deployed to Iraq from the 16th Civil Engineer Squadron. He and more than 100 Airmen from Hurlburt Field and neighboring Eglin Air Force base returned to the Florida panhandle after deploying to Southwest Asia.

HURLBURT FLD, Fla. -- Although it’s the middle of January, it’s still Christmas for the Martinez family.
Dad, Mom, brother and two sisters still have their Christmas tree up, and even have presents under it. In fact, they’ve put off Christmas dinner until next week.

However, the Martinez’s halls aren’t still decked because they were too busy to celebrate in December. There was something missing – their son and brother, Airman 1st Class Peter Bolier, 16th Civil Engineer Squadron, who was deployed to Iraq over the holidays.

Airmen Bolier was one of more than 100 Hurlburt Field and Eglin Airmen who returned home to the Florida Panhandle Jan. 19, following deployments to Southwest Asia. Waiting for them at the Hurlburt Field deployment control center was more than 150 family and friends.

“We’re going to have a good Puerto Rican meal for him,” said Mr. Martinez. “Saturday and next week will be Christmas for him.”

When asked how they were feeling as they waited, Luz Martinez and daughter Melissa immediately and unanimously said “ecstatic.” The family drove all the way from San Antonio so they could greet Airman Bolier at the DCC.

The DCC was a buzz that night as the families waited for their loved ones.
More than 80 friends and family members of Hurlburt Airmen were in the briefing room, and just as many Eglin family members waited in one of the passenger holding areas.
There were wives, husbands, friends and children. A few children had outfits that mimicked their parents’ camouflage uniforms. Others dressed patriotically.
Televisions were on, but no one was watching. Some people were sitting, while others walked around the room, periodically checking outside the door for the buses that would bring the Airmen from the flight line to the DCC. Children chased each other around the room and played with toys. As it got later and later, some of the youngest greeters started to drift to sleep. People chatted excitedly with one another, talking about what they would do when their husband or wife returned.

“He just wants to go home,” said Emily Edgett of her husband, Airman 1st Class Nicholas Edgett who was deployed from Eglin’s 96th Communications Group. She added, however, that he did want to stop by his favorite fast food restaurant.

As soon as the families heard the buses’ diesel engines outside the door of the DCC, they sprung to their feet, many holding American flags and homemade “welcome home” posters.

Three little boys had a sign simply reading “I miss you dad. I miss you the most. Dad do you want to get some donuts?”

When the first Airman entered the door of the Hurlburt waiting area, there were excited squeals and claps – and then of course the tears of joy.

Airmen replaced the bags in their arms with hugs from their families. But, in Senior Airman Robert McKlevey’s, 16th CES, arms was his 3-month-old son, Cayden, whom he had never held before that moment. Airman McKlevey’s smile as he held his baby boy was bigger than the bus he just stepped off of. He held the baby close to his chest, kissing him on the head.

As the buses continued to arrive, more and more friends and families were reunited. The families lingered at the DCC while 16th Logistics Readiness Squadron Airmen worked quickly to reunite the returnees with their gear.
Outside the DCC, Airman and Mrs. Edgett waited for his bags so they could “just go home.”