TAMPA, Fla. -- The family of Lt. Colonel Steve Jones wanted to make Sunday's homecoming one to remember. They brought a parade of parents, siblings, and children, all decked out in red, white, and blue.
You could tell the family was coming when Lt. Colonel Jones' 5 and 2-year-old daughters, Erin and Lauren, blew their noisemakers loudly.
"The girls missed their dad terribly," says his wife, Suzy. "Being away from him, I know, is hard. He missed a birthday. He missed Halloween."
Lt. Col. Jones is part of the 927th Air Refueling Wind, an Air Force Reserve unit stationed at MacDill Air Force Base. For the last ten weeks, they've been deployed to Southeast Asia, helping with air-to-air refueling of warplanes. On Sunday, most of its reservists returned to MacDill.
He has served for 20 years, but Suzy says this was his first time being deployed long-term since his daughters were born.
"The girls made paper chains, and for every day he was gone, we took a link off so we could see that [his return is] getting closer," Suzy says.
Now, his daughters can use paper chains to count the days spent with their dad.
"Daddy's coming home!" Lauren exclaims, hugging her dad tightly.
The maintenance crew from the 927th Air Refueling Wing is expected to return to MacDill AFB on Monday afternoon.