Reunited, a family's hearts beat as one

  • Published
  • By By Senior Airman Joe W. McFadden
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Saturday's Operation Homecoming included a unique reunion for one Saber family.

For five months, half the King family has been away--one through a deployment with the U.S. Air Force and another two who won't be born until October.

Tech. Sgt. Jesse King, an avionics specialist with 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, returned to greet his wife Andrea and four children: Sydney, 15, Alexis, 10, and soon-to-be-born twins Aaliyah and Aaron.

"It feels good to be home," Sergeant King said. "And I had a big reason to get home before the babies got here, too."

King deployed with his squadron to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. As a maintainer, he said the role of his fellow Sabers in the backshops adds power for the fight forward.

"Avionics contributes a lot to the mission," he said. "If there are any issues with the jets, we get them back up in the air."

While Sergeant King deployed to serve his nation, Mrs. King and their daughters continued their focus on work and school while preparing for his eventual return and the arrival of their family's newest members.

"It's kinda hard without my dad being here, but we're here to help our mom when she needs anything," Sydney said, referring to times they got their mother blankets or helped with cooking so she could rest.

Sydney, now a sophomore at Bitburg American High School, said unlike her younger sister, she had gone through a deployment-related separation from her father before, albeit not as vivid as this one.

"When I was three-years-old, he was gone for a while," Sydney said. "This is the first time he's been gone for a long time that I can remember."

Alexis, a fifth grader at Spangdahlem American Middle School, who had to watch her father go for the first time, said this experience was one she couldn't forget but only adjust to it.

"It's kinda hard, but I've gotten used to it," she said. "But when I see him, I'm going to give him a big hug and tell him 'I love you' over and over."

The family marked the weeks until their dad returned through regular visits to a German hospital. While the language barrier presented challenges, no interpreter was needed in hearing the palpable twin heartbeats emanating from the ultrasound's speakers.

"When I got the first ultrasound done, the doctor said, 'It's two babies,'" Mrs. King recounted. "I said, 'Two?!' And she said, 'Yes, two. Zwei!'"

Mrs. King said the support of the local community made a great impact on the last few months.

"We have a great support system with people at work and friends nearby," Mrs. King said. "A lot of parents have been supportive and giving baby clothes. My baby shower was wonderful-- it was a blessing."

Mrs. King, who works with pre-toddlers aged six to 24 months at the base child development center, said the children would look at her at little differently each time than before.

"We tell them 'there are babies in there!'" Mrs. King said, pointing to her midsection. "They'll pat it and hug it, and I had a few kids kiss it, too."

Due to the time zone difference and his work schedule, late Saturday nights served as the family's communication day via visual telecommunications. However, they said social media instant messaging made keeping-in-touch much sooner.

"Last time I deployed, we didn't have these tools to keep-in-touch like we do today--we barely had the internet, and this was 12 years ago," Sergeant King said. "It was definitely a lot better now to keep in contact with the family, instead of just phone calls."

Mrs. King, holding on to her husband's arm, said her family wouldn't miss the late nights peering at each other through camera displays on their mobile phones or computers.

"I'm very excited to finally have him home," Mrs. King said. "No more looking through a computer or messaging."

The girls spent the days before the Sept. 21 homecoming preparing their "Welcome Home" banner adorned with past family photos.

"I'm probably going to be the first to hug him, and she's going to be the first to cry," Sydney said, while pointing to her sister. Alexis just smiled and agreed to Sydney's first point, noting how her sister participated in track and field in high school.

But when the big moment finally occurred, Sydney, the self-admitted stronger, more reserved of the two siblings, stepped back from the group hug as she batted strands away from her face.

"I knew it!" said Alexis, as she pointed at her sister who wiped a tear away as the family turned around.

And as the family left the terminal, they'll be getting ready for another homecoming as they prepare to welcome the newest members of their family - Aaliyah and Aaron - within a few weeks.

"It's great to be back," Sergeant King said. "Good to see my girls."