“It’s been quite an experience,” Lt. Col. Chris Gohlke of Powder Springs said. “I’m just happy to be home but glad that I had the opportunity to serve.”
The crew, which deployed in May and has been in the Middle East for the last four months, was taxied in on a C-130 and welcomed by fellow airmen and loved ones during a homecoming ceremony in one of the fuel hangars at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta.
“When you got over there, I told you to return with honor, and you did that. I thank you for that,” Col. Timothy E. Tarchick, commander of the 94th, said during his welcome speech. “We’re proud of all of you. We love you all, and we’re grateful that you’re all back safely,”
Gohlke’s wife, Teresa, attended the ceremony with her four children and mother from Minnesota.
“It’s been hard, really, really hard because I have no family that live locally. It’s been tough for me,” she said of her husband being gone for four months.
Gohlke, a reservist for 14 years, is the chief of standardization and evaluation for the group. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel while in the Middle East.
The couple’s children, 8-year-old twins Andrew and Austin, 6-year-old Helena and 4-year-old Gavin, were not yet born when her husband last deployed in 2003. He has been deployed five times in all.
“We tried to prep them that he is going to be on a very long trip,” Teresa Gohlke said. “We didn’t give them the details. I didn’t want them to be burdened with worrying about him.”
Austin said what he’s missed most about his dad being gone is playing on the baseball and soccer fields with him.
“We always like to play catch together,” he said. “I’m excited about seeing him coming home because I really miss him.”
Andrew said he’s missed watching baseball and football games with his dad.
“That’s what I really like to do with him and I know he’s excited to watch football again,” he said.
Gohlke, who is a pilot for Delta, said he’s looking forward to getting back into his daily routine.
He’s also looking forward to a trip to Costa Rica in coming weeks to celebrate he and his wife’s 10th wedding anniversary.
“It’s nice that I could get home and enjoy that,” he said.
Family and friends weren’t the only ones there to welcome home the airmen Friday.
Rich Ray and Ron Mazzola, along with three other members of the Acworth-based American Legion Post 304 group, were also in attendance.
“It’s important for us to welcome our boys and girls who are doing what we did for years, serving our country,” Mazzola said. “We’re proud of them.”
This was their first welcome home ceremony at Dobbins, but Ray said they plan to participate in as many as they can in the future.