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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Family and friends welcomed home 30 members of the 145th Airlift Wing North Carolina Air National Guard Friday from a deployment to Afghanistan.

It's been over 130 days, said Shelly Beauvais, whose husband Ralph is with the unit.

Beauvais says all that time apart takes its toll. She tries to keep her daughters, 3-year-old Emily and 6-year-old Ava, busy to keep their minds off the fact their dad has been gone since November.

As they get older they have more and more questions and I have less and less answers, Beauvais said.

Nights after the kids are in bed are tough.

That's our time, Beauvais said.

Bobbie Batchelor organized the Patriot Guard welcome for the returning Airmen.

Her husband of 23 years, Derek Batchelor, was on the same flight.

It's like sending half of you to another country and trying to function with half your heart gone, Bobbie said.

Anticipation grew as the crowd gathered and the plane was 20 minutes away.

I get butterflies. I get all excited. It s like marital therapy, Beauvais said.

Hug him and give him lots of kisses, young Ava said, when asked about how she plans to greet her dad.

When the plane landed, the Airmen walked out and were greeted by the Patriot Guard, carrying United States flags.

Family members greeted their loved ones moments later.

Batchelor cries and hugs her husband tight.

That's the best, said Derek Batchelor, happy to be home.

Shelly, Emily and Ava get their kisses, too.

To be gone around the holidays is especially hard, especially having two little ones like these. It's great to be back, Ralph Beauvais said.

The 145th Airlift Wing conducted air cargo lifts and drops in Afghanistan.


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