Wednesday afternoon was a moment more than 100 families waited for, as the Montana National Guard 1063rd Maintenance Company arrived at Billings Logan International Airport.
With two large streams of water pouring down on the arriving plane, two City of Billings Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting trucks provided a water cannon salute.
water cannon salute is basically a show of honor and pride to military, presidents, vice presidents. I got a call from the National Guard asking me if we could set that up for them and of course we want to do that,” said Mick McCarthy, City of Billings Airport Operations Supervisor.
McCarthy has been working at the airport for 29 years and estimates he’s assisted with 20 or more water cannon salutes.
“Every time we do this, it’s like the first time,” McCarthy said.
But this arrival had special meaning for McCarthy, as one of his own family members was returning from this deployment.
“My nephew is the commander of this unit, so being here for that was good,” said McCarthy.
Gathered in the parking lot of the Edwards Jet Center, loved ones greeted their returning soldiers, including City of Billings Public Works Safety and Facilities Officer Heidi Carver.
“It’s a lot of sacrifice to give up a year,” Carver said.
The sacrifice for Carver’s family was three-fold.
Her husband, oldest son, age 23, and youngest son, age 19, were all returning from this deployment to the Middle East.
“He has prior service. Active duty, and National Guard. He got out, and then reenlisted with the boys because it was a huge honor to be able to serve with your boys,” Carver said of her husband.
With most of their time spent in Kuwait and some time in Saudi Arabia, Carver said the entire family is proud of their service.
“This was a support mission, so they aided other groups that were over there, and that’s amazing,” said Carver.
Counting down to the big moment, Carver was happy to see the crowd and the people waiting to greet the troops.
“I am so excited for them to have a warm welcome, from the city, the airport, and all the family and friends.”