Windsor Locks — While his fellow soldiers hugged and kissed the relatives they had not seen in nearly a year, Spec. Jason McVicker on Tuesday met the sister he had been trying to find for two decades.
McVicker and Jailyn Clay lingered at the Army Aviation Support Facility long after many others had grabbed their bags and left.
The siblings have the same father but different mothers, and their father passed away when they were children. They both live in Norwich and their children go to the same pediatrician, but their paths never crossed. Recently, they reconnected through Facebook.
Clay surprised McVicker by going with his family to the homecoming for his unit, the 248th Engineer Co. of Norwich. The engineers returned to the support facility after nearly a year in Bahrain. It was the first time the Connecticut National Guard had sent a unit to Bahrain.
"This is the welcome home I never thought I would have," said McVicker, 28, who also met his nephews for the first time.
Clay, 35, said she was still very nervous, even after seeing her brother, but that "he is not going to get away from me this time."
The 120 soldiers in the unit were assigned some engineering missions overseas, but they spent most of their time providing security at Isa Air Base on the southern end of the Gulf Arab state. Capt. Keith Parent of Enfield commands the unit.
Maj. Gen. Thaddeus J. Martin, commander of the Connecticut National Guard, said he was glad the soldiers were back because they are a large portion of the Guard's engineering force in the state. The engineers most likely would have been called on during Superstorm Sandy, but since they were away, Martin said, soldiers with other skill sets responded.
After two units return home in August and September, the Guard will have less than 100 members deployed over the holidays, Martin said. More than 300 soldiers and airmen are currently overseas in support of Afghanistan operations.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said there is nothing better than seeing soldiers return home to their families.
Many of them stood on the runway holding young children. Staff Sgt. Mario Richards, 38, of East Lyme held hands with his niece and nephew, and Staff Sgt. James Carney held his 2-year-old son Patrick.
Seeing Patrick in person, Carney said, was "surreal."
"I've been watching him grow up on Skype," Carney, 30, of Milford said.
Staff Sgt. David Wasik, 36, of Cromwell was surrounded by his wife, Amy, and his three daughters, Makaela, 8, Samantha, 5, and 6-month-old Aubri.
With Father's Day this weekend, Wasik said, "They couldn't have picked a better time to get us home."