After nearly 12 months, the minutes began to feel like hours for family and friends of Vermont Army National Guard members waiting for their loved ones returning from overseas deployment.

More than 300 soldiers from two Vermont Guard units began returning December 1. More than 100 arrived Thursday.

Emily Dunn was at the Guard’s Colchester base with her son, waiting to see her husband after nearly a year.  

“My heart has been pumping out of my chest for the last two hours,” Dunn said. 

The 172nd Law Enforcement Detachment deployed in January 2021 to support US Europe Command, and the 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry departed in February to US Central Command.

Holden Hiler from Brattleboro was there to see her brother 

“He is my best friend,” Hiler said. “We are close in age. We have done everything together so it’s been really hard to be without him, but he is coming home.” 

Susan French from Essex waited patiently to see her son. “I am fighting back tears,” French said. “I am really excited, I am proud.” 

And finally the plane pulls to halt and the reunions begin.

“Speechless for the most part, it’s been a long time,” said Guardsman Michael Collins.