No more staring at him only through a phone screen.
Connecticut Army National Guard Sgt. Nicholas Taverney is home.
About 100 soldiers with the 192nd Military Police Battalion, headquartered in Niantic, returned home Tuesday night from a 10-month deployment to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with their loved ones.
The soldiers are coming back to a different place than they left. When they left for Cuba in early January, the pandemic had yet to hit the U.S., let alone Connecticut.
"He's excited to come home and see everyone. I explained to him that it might be different. It might take awhile to see people," Taverney's wife, Caitlyn Marsh, said. "Things are different now."
The soldiers all quarantined for two weeks at Fort Hood in Texas before returning Tuesday night to the Guard's Windsor Locks Army Aviation Readiness Center, where, along with their loved ones, Maj. Gen. Francis Evon, adjutant general and commanding officer of the Connecticut National Guard, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., were there to greet them.
"When this unit deployed, the world was a very different place," Evon said in a statement. "Not only did the 192nd Military Police Headquarters fulfill its duties and exceed the standards, they did so while facing the challenges presented operating overseas just before the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic here. I am immensely proud of them for their mission accomplishments while returning everyone safe and healthy, and am excited to see these Connecticut Guardsmen reunited with family ahead of the holidays."
While in Cuba, the battalion provided planning, personnel and logistical support to military police units assigned to the Joint Task Force Guantanamo. More than two dozen members of the battalion returned over the summer, leaving the remaining 100 or so to finish the mission.
Currently, about 100 Connecticut Guardsmen are deployed in support of operations worldwide, with 1,000 preparing for various deployments over the coming year.
Taverney and Marsh joined the National Guard out of high school about six years ago. Marsh, who was in the Rhode Island Guard, got out recently, she said, because her "priorities have changed," referring to the couple's 1 1/2 -year-old son, Camden. But she said her husband plans to make a career out of it. The couple lives in Griswold.
When Taverney left, Camden wasn't crawling yet, "now it's going to be full on Wrestle-mania," said Taverney's mother, Amy McGuire of Hebron.
As a mother, McGuire said she wanted the "full on welcome home" for her son and his fellow Guardsmen, but she understands that changes had to be made, given the pandemic.
"That's what I think they all deserve, but that's the mama bear in me. They probably just want to relax," she said.
McGuire said she and her daughter-in-law and grandson arrived 30 minutes early to Tuesday's homecoming and were first in line when the gates opened.
As the Guardsmen filed off the plane and into the parking lot where their loved ones sat in their cars awaiting them, some honked their horns. Others waved American flags.
"That's him right there. I know his walk," McGuire said as her son approached the car, which was decorated with American flags and a sign on the dashboard with lights around it that said, "We Love Sgt Taverney."
Marsh said she was looking forward to cutting down a Christmas tree with her husband later this week and watching holiday movies together. His mother wants to eventually throw him a party to celebrate all the holidays he missed, featuring food from each one.
Embracing her husband for the first time in 10 months, Marsh turned to Camden and said "We're back. Yeah, we're back."
This article is written by Julia Bergman from The Day, New London, Conn. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.