ST. CLOUD, Minn. (WCCO) — For the family of returning soldier, Sgt. Dan Geurts, the wait was nearly over. Inside a Minnesota Army National Guard hangar at the St. Cloud airport, banners and flags hung in anticipation.

“I am just nervous and I am excited. We’re jumping out of our skin, for sure. I can’t wait,” said Paula Geurts, Dan’s mother.

Over the past year, soldiers of this St. Cloud-based Army aviation unit have played a big role in the draw-down in Iraq. They fly the large Chinook helicopters, moving troops and supplies.

Today came their turn to return. Families gripped flags and signs, eager for a charter jet door to swing open and their soldiers to spill out.

As the hanger filled with cheers, the unit was dismissed and Dan wasted no time.

“It was amazing. I’m still at a loss for words,” he said. “You wait so long, it’s almost like the best Christmas present when you’re a kid when you see that happen.”

For Chief Warrant Officer Tom Knutson, holding his new daughter, Elise, for only the second time, is a feeling like none other.

“Words can’t even really describe what it’s like to be home — it’s probably one of the greatest feelings,” Knutson said.

This was a pre-Thanksgiving homecoming that nearly didn’t happen. It took some special orders to get them home a few days early, into the arms of loved ones and that awaiting feast.

“For them letting us have Thanksgiving prior to the deployment, it wasn’t a guarantee that we weren’t going to be home for this Thanksgiving. So luckily, we made it, so I’m happy to be home,” said Sgt. Anthony Hutchinson.

That was a feeling made obvious in the eyes of a child and the warm embrace of a spouse.

Because the unit deployed after Thanksgiving last November, it was doubtful they’d be home in time this year. But thanks to some civilians down at Fort Hood, Texas, their remaining work in Iraq was taken care of allowing for the early return.


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