More than a hundred Marines and sailors from Beaufort are spending their first full day with their families after seven months in Iraq. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 224 returned to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on Sunday night. They provided direct support for several major combat operations and air cover during Iraq's first free elections; however, the best part of the mission was coming home.
For hundreds of men, women and children, this was the day they had waited months for. Holly Caudill, clutched a sign she had made for her husband.
"I'm really anxious, really nervous," she said, "I'm really happy!"
Caudill could barely contain her excitement as the plane bringing back her husband and the rest of Fighter Attack Squadron 224 taxied in. All eyes were on the plane as families searched for their first glimpse of their loved ones. Marines and sailors couldn't reach the bottom of the stairs fast enough, eager to see spouses, children, parents and friends. Somehow, Caudill found her way through the crowd, to her husband.
"It's really overwhelming," she explained. "You feel really excited and then the next minute, you're ready to cry."
A rainbow stretched across the sky that night. It was a fitting tribute, although these warriors say what they've found at its end is more precious to them than gold.
"I've been waiting for this for so, so long. It's a long time coming," said Corporal Samuel Caudill. "It's so exhilarating. You can't sleep. I haven't slept in 36 hours. I wanted to get home so bad."
"I'm glad he's home. I'm glad he's safe," said Holly Caudill. "I'm so very proud of him."
The 224th Fighter Attack Squadron logged more than 7,000 combat flight hours, completing 2,400 combat sorties.