Sumter, SC (WLTX) -- Men and women of the 20th Fighter Wing from Shaw Air Force Base were greeted with a hero's welcome as they returned home.
They were gone for a five month deployment to several Middle Eastern nations as part of the United States Central Command Area of Responsibility.
They touched down just before 3 a.m. Friday, returning back to Shaw Air Force Base.
It's been five months since many of the people waiting had seen their loved ones, and for the first time Sophia, a baby just shy of five months old, was meeting her father, Andrew Carter.
Sophia was born just two weeks after Carter left for deployment, her mother said.
The emotions of the moment were difficult to hide for many.
Eager faces waited undeterred by temperatures dropping into the 30's.
Flags proudly displayed the pride each family and friend felt as they supported a loved one gone, but now that those loved ones are back, everyone's catching up on lost time.
"Most definitely" said Olivia Swartz, who had waited for her husband Lewis to return. "A lot of date nights. We like to go at least once or twice a week."
Five months for many of the people waiting meant sacrifice, and missing some of life's most challenging and rewarding moments, which was a fact especially true for the Tunstall family.
"Especially with my son, and everything," said Keith Tunstall said, standing with his wife Erica and 1-year-old son, Keith Tunstall, Jr.
His wife and son greeted him when he stepped off a plane that carried the Airman back to Shaw.
"You know, him growing up, learning some new words. (There's) a lot of stuff to catch up on," Keith Tunstall said.
Those returning are now able to kiss their children, share in hugs and laughter, but asking Olivia Swartz just what it feels like to have her husband back, she was at a loss for words.
"There's no words to explain it, other than saying there's no words to explain it," she said.
Things like Skype can sometimes make passing the time easier, Keith Tunstall said.
"I guess that made it short for me, I guess, to be able to see them online when we did have internet access to do so," Tunstall said.
His wife agreed.
But at the end of the day, nothing seemed to beat being back with the people most loved.
Those deployed included airmen and women versed in maintenance and operations, a Shaw spokesman said.