PORTLAND, Maine — Family and friends of Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Ward gathered at the Portland Jetport Sunday to welcome him home. On Independence Day, Ward was coming back to his home state after serving overseas in Kuwait for 13-months.
"I think thankfulness, thankfulness for his time that he's been away, and that God brought him home safely," said Ward's mother Charlene Ward.
More than a dozen of Ward's family and friends were there awaiting his arrival.
"I missed him a lot. And I'm just really excited for him to come back home," said Ward's daughter Izi. "Just getting to spend time with him and not have to be upset that he'll have to go away in a few weeks," Izi added.
"4th of July, that's the perfect day for him to come home," said Ward's niece Adayla.
Ward's family waited in the lobby of the Portland Jetport arrival terminal for about an hour Sunday. When loved ones saw their first glimpse of him, cheers erupted, and his wife, two daughters, and one son rushed to him.
"It was an awesome surprise," said Ward. "I knew that my parents and my wife and children were going to be here, but to have my extended family as well, it was just a really great opportunity to have them here, see that excitement, and it went along with 4th of July pretty well."
For the next 30 minutes, the family laughed, hugged, and celebrated the return of their hero. However, Ward had a surprise of his own. During his return to Maine, Ward's flight stopped in Washington D.C., where he picked up an adorable little puppy, which he kept secret from his children.
"So they surprised me by all showing up, but I think I got the last laugh by showing up with a puppy," laughed Ward.
Ward says he will be spending the next few weeks with family in Maine.
"We'll be tubing, we'll be eating lobster, we'll be doing all the things he doesn't get to do when he's not here," said Ward's mother Charlene.
Next, Ward and his wife and kids will relocate to the Washington D.C. area for his next duty station with the Air Force.
Those in attendance for the reunion say it's an Independence Day they'll never forget.