Members of 94th Airlift Wing return home to lots of love
by Lindsay Field
lfield@mdjonline.com
September 22, 2012 01:05 AM | 4280 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
94th Airlift Wing Homecoming
Lizette Prater of Powder Springs and her sons Luke, in white, and Wes, in blue get excited as the C-130 arrives at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta with her husband Staff Sgt. Matthew Prater who has been serving in the Middle East for the past four months.  STAFF/LAURA MOON.
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Lt. Col. Brian Ferguson of Marietta plays with his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Allie at Dobbins Air Reserve Base on Friday morning as he returns from serving in the Middle East.  STAFF/LAURA MOON.
Lt. Col. Brian Ferguson of Marietta plays with his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Allie at Dobbins Air Reserve Base on Friday morning as he returns from serving in the Middle East. STAFF/LAURA MOON.
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Friends and family welcomed home 53 members of the 94th Airlift Wing Friday just before lunch with big smiles, lots of hugs and kisses and quite a few tears. “It’s been quite an experience,” said Lt. Col. Chris Gohlke of Powder Springs. “I’ve been in a unit that didn’t deploy until recently and it was our turn, so we went and 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.

Col. Timothy E. Tarchick, commander of the 94th, said during his welcome speech, “When you got over there, I told you to return with honor and you did that. I thank you for that. 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 about her husband being gone for four months.

Lt. Col. Gohlke has been a reservist for 14 years and 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.

Lt. Col. 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.

“We’re looking forward to that so it’s nice that I could get home and enjoy that,” he said.

Another Powder Springs mother that was there Friday to welcome home her husband with their two sons was Lizette Prater.

“It’s been trying, exciting and adventurous,” she said about Staff Sgt. Matthew Prater’s deployment. “I’ve had to do things I otherwise wouldn’t have done because I’ve been caring for the kids – like pitching a tent,” she said.

This was the first time that Staff Sgt. Prater, who has been in the reservist for about 14 years and is an electrician on the C130s, has been deployed.

Lizette Prater said she hasn’t been this excited about anything since her two sons, 5-year-old Luke and 3-year-old Wes, were born.

“Oh my gosh! I don’t think there’s a word for this feeling,” she said while getting a little teary-eyed. “I can’t describe it.”

Long-time Marietta resident Aaron Morris was at Dobbins with his daughter Heather Stallworth and granddaughter Alecia Stallworth to welcome home Tech Sgt. Trent Morris.

Aaron Morris said his son has been deployed multiple times but he never gets used to him being away.

“I’m really glad to see him coming home,” he said.

Tech Sgt. Morris, 47, joined the military at 19 and works at Dobbins as a jet engine mechanic.

His little sister, Stallworth, said, “It’s been hard because he’s like one of my best friends. He drives me crazy when he’s here but I love him.”

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 attending a welcome home ceremony at Dobbins but Ray said they plan to participate in as many as they can in the future.

At the close of the ceremony Col. Tarchick recognized the crew’s accomplishments while they were deployed.

The squadron flew 832 missions, flying over 2,700 hours, 1,850 of those being combat hours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. They also carried 5,052 passengers, 2,650 tons of cargo, 164 distinguished visitors and 430 aero medical evacuees.
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