Local soldier returns home to family, friends on Veterans Day
The anticipation was building at Mitchell Airport on Friday afternoon as a large group waited for the return of Ray Simons' wife.
Their family has been through four deployments.
"This is my wife's first, so it's my first time stepping back as a Mr. Mom-type role," he said.
The parents of three young children held yellow roses to give to their mother, agreeing with others that 11 months was long enough to be apart.
Moments later, their prayers were answered during an emotional reunion of hugs and kisses.
"I figured there would be my family and a few friends, but I didn't expect this at all," said Maj. Micki Simons.
Ray found out on Tuesday that his hero wife was coming home. A simple email to the veterans network at his job turned into an outpouring of support.
"I truly believe that every opportunity you get, you should be able to show respect because they make incredible sacrifices," said neighbor Jeff Romano.
"It was long and crazy and very challenging, but there's still a lot to do," Maj. Simons said.
The mission now is making up for lost time.
"I missed her playing with us," said daughter Emily Simons.
"I'm just happy she came back," said son Leif Simons.
While the support is necessary, the family urges people to not forget about those soldiers who are still fighting.
"Any veteran in your lives please reach out to them let them know they're loved and supported," Ray said.
Maj. Simons deployed individually, helping a military unit based in Seattle, meaning she would miss out on the unit's collective redeployment ceremony. Ray said that's why Friday's surprise welcome home was especially important.