Families Say Emotional Goodbye To Deployed Airmen & Women

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Men and women from the 911th Airlift Wing are headed to southwest Asia; 144 of them shipped out Friday morning as part of the War on Terror.

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They all knew this day was coming, and they are very proud of their husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, moms and dads.

This deployment was a little tougher than others though, for a specific reason. It’s the final time the monstrous C-130 aircraft will be deployed from Pittsburgh.

“You know they are going to have a big adventure,” said Lt. Col. Brian Branby, of the 758th Airlift Squad. “You want them to take care of themselves and each other. You are just back here wishing you were part of it because you know what they are going to experience.”

Next year, the familiar frame of the hulking C-130s will be replaced by gargantuan C-17.

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“Every time we have launched into southwest Asia, we knew, they are going to come home and we are going to do it again. Today, we realize we are never going to do this again,” said Col. Jeff Van Dootingh, the commander of the 911th Airlift Wing.

The families of the airmen and women are always proud of their service, but this time they have a little something extra.

“They are going over there doing what they love, doing what they want to do,” said Kasey Hoth, a reservist’s wife. “I mean it’s hard for us and sad, but it’s also exciting because we know they are making a difference.”

As the massive C-130s do one final fly-by at the 911th, well-wishers hug, cry, beam with pride and have already started counting the days until 144 men and women come home.

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“What? Four or five months, and you know, we get that homecoming again,” said Hoth, “and that’s what makes it worth it. I already can’t wait for that day.”