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Home for the Holidays:
Some guardsmen return

By Staff
COMING HOME Mackenzie Ortlepp, 8, said all she really wanted for Christmas was for her father, Patrick Ortlepp, to return home from overseas duty. She got her wish Monday. Photo by Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Dec. 11, 2001
Nothing sounded as sweet to Virginia Brand as hearing her husband's voice on the other end of the phone singing "I'll be Home for Christmas."
Brand said goodbye to her husband, Robert, on Oct. 17 as he left with 100 other Air National Guardsmen for overseas duty. He returned home Monday afternoon as the military relieved 25 troops from overseas duty.
Another 18 are expected to return home Wednesday, said ANG spokesman Lt. Col. Randy Pope. In their place, 18 Guardsmen left Sunday and another 10 left today.
Brand joined other family members at the Air National Guard base as they waited anxiously for their relatives to return home. They had been expected to arrive at 5:30 p.m.; they were two hours early.
Brand said she is used to her husband going away on missions, but "it's a whole different thing to be at war. It's made me realize how proud I am of the unit, for what they do and how they help people."
When Gayle McCarra heard the news her husband, Sonny, would be coming home, she started decorating for the holidays.
Mev Knight stood on the observation deck at the Air National Guard base with her children, Kelsi, 12, and Logan, 8, waiting for her husband's plane to arrive.
Kelsi said she's been worried about her father, Robbie Knight, and Logan said home has been "boring" since his father has been away.
Mackenzie Ortlepp, 8, took her plea for her dad's return to a higher authority. Mackenzie wrote a letter to Santa Claus, asking him to bring her father, Patrick Ortlepp, home.
When Patrick Ortlepp arrived, Mackenzie threw her arms around her father, buried her face on his shoulder and held on tight.
Pope said the troops who returned home this week could be rotated overseas again, although he is not sure if and when that will happen.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3236, or e-mail her at