Families reunited with their war heroes

By Dave GooderhamTHEY arrived home from war for an emotional reunion with their tearful loved ones.The U.S. servicemen from RAF Mildenhall have spent weeks abroad during the Iraq crisis, but returned to East Anglia yesterday to be greeted by their happy, relieved families.

By Dave Gooderham

THEY arrived home from war for an emotional reunion with their tearful loved ones.

The U.S. servicemen from RAF Mildenhall have spent weeks abroad during the Iraq crisis, but returned to East Anglia yesterday to be greeted by their happy, relieved families.

Scores of women and children eagerly embraced their loved ones after they touched down in the sunshine at the USAF air base.

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One of the wives awaiting a reunion with her husband was Teresa Buchanan, of Felixstowe Road, Nacton, who described the past while her loved on was at war as “awful”.

Speaking just before she, with son Alan, seven, and daughter Milly, four, was reunited with her husband Wade, she said: “The children have been really sensitive as they missed their dad a lot.

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“The news has been on constantly in our house and when it was on, Alan was upset all of the time.

“I have had to constantly reassure him his dad was fine and safe. I was lucky to have my family around, some people around here didn't have anyone.”

The couple had been apart for more than two months and Mrs Buchanan said: “He kept telling me he was coming home soon, but it was not until I got a phone call at 4am yesterday morning that I knew for sure.

“I was so excited that I couldn't get back to sleep. I had tried to act as normal as possible during the last few months, but I was worried all the time.

“I was lucky he was not in the frontline, there are a lot more people worse off than me and I had to keep that in mind.”

Mrs Buchanan, who confessed to being nervous while waiting for her husband to arrive back home, added she had been overwhelmed after the family had been reunited.

Her husband, a technical sergeant who debriefed pilots about their missions and planes, said: “I am completely happy to be home, I have missed my family quite a bit.

“There was a really good community spirit out there and we all stuck together - but I am looking forward to getting back to normality.”

For little Hailey Reneau, her father coming home was the perfect early present for her eighth birthday on Friday.

Major Rob Reneau was greeted in the operations group building by his wife Mysti, his daughter Mariah, four, and twin sons, Joshua and Noah, 22 months.

But his other daughter Hailey, who was at school at the time, had to wait until last night to be reunited at their Thetford home.

A tearful Maj Reneau said: “It is amazing to be back. The one thing I think all the men would agree on is the incredible support we had out there.”

His wife added: “We will now try to get back to normal and spend some family time together.”

The day was also highly emotional for Sgt Matthew Hullman, who had to leave his wife Jennifer and daughter Kara, who was just two months old at the time.

Sgt Hullman said: “It has been very hard being away as I have missed out on some good stuff with Kara, but I now have plenty of time to catch up.”

The U.S airmen were part of the 100th Air Refuelling Wing which had been deployed in the Mediterranean region and helped fuel the aircraft used in the conflict with Iraq.

RAF Mildenhall public affairs officer, Rosarie Bushey, was unable to give a figure of how many personnel had been deployed, but it is believed to be about 200, with half arriving home yesterday.

Mr Bushey said more would come home over the next few weeks after being out of the country for more than two months.

The servicemen had served in a number of positions, including re-fuelling, public affairs, maintenance and support staff.

While they were on active service, Ann Mullin played a vital role among the families back home as a key spouse whose job it was to boost the morale of the girlfriends and wives.

Mrs Mullin, whose husband Mark is expected back sometime next week, said she had been thrilled so many servicemen had now returned home.

“The role of the key spouse is basically is to try to take care of the spouses while their husbands are deployed,” she added.

“Many of the women were a little nervous and tense for a while, but everyone coped well and they are now very upbeat.”

Col Michael Crane, vice-commander at the air base, said: “I am absolutely ecstatic and so glad to see all these reunions.

“We took part in one of the biggest refuelling operations in history and the airmen all did a fantastic job.”

It was a similar scene in Norfolk yesterday as personnel from RAF Marham returned home after playing a key role in the war with Iraq.

Air and ground crews from 31 Squadron - which supplied tornado aircraft for the assault on Saddam Hussein - were reunited with their families after four months abroad.


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