After months of waiting, these Virginia troops made it home in time for the holidays

Posted at 6:26 PM, Nov 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-17 20:57:32-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Dozens of Virginia National Guard (VNG) members were reunited with their families in Henrico County Thursday after a months-long deployment overseas.

Soldiers from the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Headquarters, based in Staunton, deployed to Kosovo in March 2022 as part of a NATO peacekeeping mission in that country.

"We were providing freedom of movement for the people that live in Kosovo and providing a safe and secure environment," said Executive Officer Lt. Col. Brian Gallavan of the group's mission, which was conducted alongside 1,000 personnel from 10 nations.

"The leaders and staff planned and executed three separate named operations to decrease tensions related to Serbian elections, license plate reciprocity and securing energy infrastructure," added a VNG news release on the return. "The brigade was also responsible for working with the Serbian armed forces to ensure all parties were in compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999 and the Military Technical Agreement. The focus of RC-East was to provide the opportunity to resolve tensions in the Balkans through political dialogue focused on normalizing relations between Serbia and Kosovo."

VNG said this was the seventh reunion between its troops and families as more than 2,000 soldiers and airmen have been deployed on federal active duty overseas.

Two more units will be returning in the coming months -- one in December and another next spring, both from the Middle East.

"I've done four overseas deployments. I've gone to Iraq twice. I've gone to Qatar once. And this has been my most recent deployment. My wife is stuck by me, I've missed some precious things with the kids, but it's super great to be home," said Gallavan, who added those deployments have been made easier with the advance of technology. "We're able to talk just about every day, stay in touch with the children, kind of watch them grow. They would call me for games and birthday parties and it helps you feel part of the family."

Among the other families that were reunited Thursday, were the Browns from Charles City County, as Staff Sergeant Anthony Brown was met by his wife, Kendall, and three children, Kayleigh, Dalton, and Adam.

"I'm glad we're back. I really am. It's been entirely way too long without him. I'm just fortunate to be back," said Anthony Brown, who credited his wife for work during the deployment. "She's definitely a trooper. She really is. If you don't have a good support system back at home and makes or breaks any kind of relationship and she's done an amazing job."

The Browns were the first family to arrive at the airport and Kendall said before the reunion that she missed seeing and hugging her husband. She added it was made all the sweeter by getting him back in time for Thanksgiving.

"Because that was up in the air at first. So, we knew probably by Christmas, but Thanksgiving was definitely up in the air. So it'll be nice to have him home for all the holidays," said Kendall.

Kayleigh, the oldest of the three kids, said not having her dad was weird and she missed hanging out and spending time with him.

"Sometimes I was scared. Like, something's going to happen. It felt weird when people asked me, where's my dad," said Kayleigh, who added the entire family wore special bracelets that they would take off once he was back. "If I was having a hard day. I would just look at it and just think of him. And then my day would just get better."

And as the family was together once again, Anthony Brown said he was ready to return to normal, everyday life and take off the bracelet.

"Yeah, I'm ready to take it off," said Anthony.


Giving You A Voice: Contact the CBS 6 Team

📱 Download CBS 6 News App
The app features breaking news alerts, live video, weather radar, traffic incidents, closings and delays and more.