No place like home



VIENNA — Upon returning home, 13 security force members who were stationed in Iraq were thrilled to see snow on the ground.

After protecting their base in Kirkuk, Iraq, for more than six months, 12 men and one woman from the 910th Security Forces Squadron returned to the Youngstown Air Reserve Station here Thursday afternoon to rejoin family members who waved American flags and carried homemade signs.

“I’m ready to catch up with my family,” said 22-year-old Josh Moffie, taking moments to hug his crying mother, Helen, and father, Sam.

The Cardinal Mooney High School graduate would return to his Boardman home for a party Thursday evening, where friends and a sibling would greet him.

Moffie had spoken to his family through phone calls and e-mails during his tour in Iraq, and through those talks Sam Moffie said he had a hunch his son would appreciate the change of weather.

“I get the sense that he’ll have a lot more fun in the snow than sand,” he said.

Josh’s response?

“I love it! I haven’t seen it for over six months,” he said, “I’m just so overwhelmed right now, I can’t even think.”

Enjoying the snow — versus dry sand — is on the agenda for an Olmsted, Ohio, family now that son Adam Ayers, 20, is home safe.

“He’s going to go home and make snow angels,” joked Tammy Lillie, the ecstatic mother of Ayers, her only child.

“I was so ready for him to come home, I couldn’t rest last night,” she said.

But though the returning service members welcome the snowflakes and brisk breezes, one wife surprised her Army specialist spouse with plans to ditch the snow for a week.

Steven McKnew’s elation at coming home to wife Lynn and their 2-year-old son, Dylan, was compounded by her secret scheduling of a sea cruise to Mexico. Lynn said the time together will allow them to bond and ease her husband back into a family-man role.

“It was hard while Steven was gone. You have to take on the single-parent role,” she said. “I’m just so glad he’s back and safe.”

In fact, with the exception of one man who suffered minor knee injuries at the base in Iraq, the entire crew returned home in good health, Col. Karl McGregor said.

“Of course, the area is not as dangerous as it was at the start [of the war],” McGregor said, “But these guys still put themselves at risk over there every day.”

Both McGregor and Col. Teresa Hams were pleased to see their squadron return safely but said they found it difficult having to stay at the base while the men and women they trained fought overseas.

“It’s a combination of pride and relief when they return,” Hams said, “but it’s harder to stay behind when they leave.”

The colonels said the group of reservists is the second of three planned to return from Operation Iraqi Freedom. The next group will come home in about two weeks, McGregor said.

For now, they said the 13 have time to get reacquainted with civilian life, which in Ohio includes a good amount of snow.

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