Nearly 100 soldiers from the Vermont National Guard are back home. They returned Thursday afternoon from a ten-month overseas deployment to the waiting embrace of loved ones in South Burlington.

According to one of the signs visible in the crowd at Burlington International Airport, the soldiers were away for 310 days. For Toni Kenney of Fair Haven, the very end of the wait — behind garage bay doors at the Vermont Air National Guard base — may have been the hardest part of it.

“It really was! It felt almost like going into a haunted house,” she said. “I was getting really nervous. It’s awesome — very nerve-wracking, but very exciting.”

Kenney was waiting for Sgt. Ryan Tarbell, who said he also had butterflies in his stomach. The two spoke every day, or close to it, once the Pentagon deployed him last March to the northeast African nation of Djibouti in support of U.S. Africa Command.

“As much as we could, anyways, with the ten-hour time difference, but we got through it,” Sgt. Tarbell said. “Everybody’s home, home safe, and I know I speak for us all when I say we’re very happy to be home.”

Spc. Justin Lindor is an officer with the Essex Police Department; several of its officers accompanied his family to welcome him. One of his comrades-in-arms can’t come home just yet.

“I went there with my twin brother, Josh, who unfortunately couldn’t be here because he got COVID,” Spc. Lindor said. “But he’ll be coming soon, so I guess I’ll have to shake hands and kiss babies for him!”

In one sense, the twins’ deployment may have been easier for their mother to live through than their basic training was. Iris Lindor of Canaan couldn’t speak with them at all back then, whereas she could connect with them while they were in the Horn of Africa.

“It just seems like it’s been forever, and they’ve — he has a twin brother and they’ve never really been away from home, and I’m just so happy that they’re — that one is back,” she said. “We’re waiting on the other one, but one is back.”

The soldiers returning Thursday are among nearly a thousand from the Vermont National Guard who were deployed last year to various countries in Africa, Europe and southwest Asia. The remaining units are expected to return over the next few months.