WESTFIELD, NJ  Better late than never, right?

Members of the 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, New Jersey Army National Guard made their return home from Jordan with a police escort to the Westfield National Guard Armory Thursday night, led by Westfield Police Chief Christopher Battiloro and Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle.

After spending nearly a year away from home, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends waited eagerly at the Armory as the anticipated return at 4:30 p.m. spilled past 8 p.m. due to a flight delay. As they waited, loved ones of the deployed happily shared their personal stories of what it was like to be separated and how they planned to celebrate their return.

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“Their deployment was nine months, but they left a month earlier to go to Texas, so they've been gone for about 10 months,” said Francesca Wilson, wife of Thomas Wilson, of Union. “It was a transition. It was different. I'm pretty independent, so I would say I was fine, but luckily I had my family who live very close to me.”

“I waited 10 months, so what's a little longer?” said Wilson as she waited. “I am a little anxious to have him back, though.”

According to Francesca, while her husband couldn't wait to get back home to his friends and family, Thomas had another worry that plagued his mind.

“Our first, first thing is he's afraid our dog forgot who he is, so we're going to go surprise the dog and make a video of him surprising the dog,” she said.

Melissa Velazquez, wife of Rodolfo Velazquez, of Mayville, waited patiently with her 15-month-old son in a stroller with a poster that read, “I'm walking to my daddy for the first time.” 

“It was hard. We have a house. We have a two-year-old dog. Plus, a newborn who started crawling, then walking, now running, all while he was away. So yeah, it was hard,” said Velazquez.

Alone with just her son, Melissa explained that neither her nor Rodolfo's parents knew of Rodolfo's imminent return and planned to surprise them.

“We're going to dinner reservations,” said Velazquez. “His parents and my family don't know he's here. They think my sister is coming from California, so they'll be waiting for us at the restaurant, and we're going to surprise them.”

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