Friends and family of about 160 soldiers gave up a night of trick-or-treating to welcome home their loved ones from a nearly year-long deployment.
Children wore their Halloween costumes and held up handmade signs to welcome home their moms, dads, aunts and uncles.
Soldiers with the 1313th Engineer Company Guardsmen, headquartered in Franklin, spent nearly a year in Kuwait and returned home this weekend. Although the 160 soldiers are based in Franklin where they meet to train with the Indiana National Guard, the men and women hail from various cities and states. Friends and family members from Hope, South Bend, Shelbyville and even Louisville, Kentucky, traveled to Indianapolis to be reunited with their loved ones.
They waited at the 38th Infantry Division Headquarters in Indianapolis, which is closer to the Indianapolis International Airport, with the hope of reuniting with their loved ones a little faster, public affairs operations spokesperson Staff Sgt. Daniel Bolinger said.
But that didn’t quite work out.
A homecoming ceremony was scheduled for 5 p.m., but due to one of the planes having technical issues, families were not reunited until just before 11 p.m. The soldiers flew back to Indiana in two planes, and although one plane arrived in the afternoon, the soldiers wanted to be welcomed back as one group.
For some of the soldiers, Kuwait marked their first deployment overseas. The soldiers trained in Texas for about a month before traveling to Kuwait in late January as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Shelbyville resident Sgt. James Fischer was on his second deployment, after a first trip to Iraq about four years ago, his family said.
“It’s just the same as the first time,” grandmother Martha Fischer said. “When they walk in the door, the tears go.”
Communication with the soldiers while overseas was surprisingly easy for most of the families, with emails, text messages, phone calls and live video chats, mother Melissa Fischer said.
Kari Biggs of Indianapolis was one of the first people waiting at the 38th Infantry Division Headquarters, arriving around 3 p.m. She sat in the first row of chairs for almost eight hours to see her husband, Sgt. Jonathan Biggs, return from Kuwait.
Their 3-year-old daughter Kenzie and infant son Jaxon went trick-or-treating and out to dinner with their grandparents to keep them entertained until daddy arrived home, Kari Biggs said.
Kari Biggs had their children make signs for their dad’s return, putting hand prints and foot prints on poster board.
But the kids didn’t know that dad was coming home this weekend, Kari Biggs said. Each child wore special shirts Saturday to welcome their dad home, but they couldn’t read the shirts, so she was able to keep it a surprise, she said.
The last time her husband was home, Jaxon was 3 weeks old. Soon, they’ll be celebrating his first birthday.