For Air Force Capt. Justin Cadwell, some good bacon is just one of the small things he’s looking forward to after returning home to Columbus from deployment in Iraq.
“When I asked him what he wanted from the grocery store, he said ‘good bacon,'” said Cadwell’s wife, Meredith. “He said he was looking forward to good bacon.”
Cadwell also listed seeing his family, his dogs, golf and having a private bathroom.
Cadwell, along with Air Force Master Sgt. Darious Williams, returned home after landing at Golden Triangle Regional Airport Wednesday afternoon. Williams, a native of Edwards, was stationed in Qatar.
Williams said he looked forward to a few things on the way home.
“Seeing some green, some trees,” he said. “Seeing good people, my family, my girlfriend.”
Williams’ brother planned to meet him at GTRA for his return, but weather concerns delayed the two servicemen’s arrival 24 hours. Still, a contingent of men and women from Columbus Air Force Base was on hand to welcome both Williams and Cadwell home.
Williams said he served in a support role with the 379th Expeditionary Operations Group at Al Udeid Air base in Qatar. He’s served with the military for 12 years, and his previous tours include service in Afghanistan.
Cadwell served in an advisory role with the Combined Joint Task Force for Operation Inherent Resolve to help the Iraqi military in its fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. He was deployed for six months — been the longest deployment of his military career, which started in 2007.
While Cadwell wasn’t directly involved in combat operations or flying for his last deployment, he said he has previously flown the RC-135 on reconnaissance missions in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said the knowledge of ISIS’ activities did create a sense of stress while he was in Baghdad. However, he said everyone was more focused on stabilizing the region.
He added being in Iraq made him appreciate the breadth of ongoing operations in the Middle East, which he said can be easy to lose sight of in Columbus.
“There are a lot of operations in Iraq and Syria that affect our lives here,” he said. “We have a lot of people deployed — not only in the Air Force but in the Army, the Marines. We’re trying to do it right this time and get a stable situation.”
Meredith said she wasn’t overly worried about her husband’s safety in Baghdad, until a news alert on her phone hit close to home a few months into his deployment.
“One day I was sitting at work and I got a Fox News alert on my phone and I believe the exact words were ‘Series of dead bombings rock Baghdad’ and I had a breakdown,” she said. “At that point, I turned off my Fox News alerts and I got rid of cable. I kind of, for the past couple of months, have been ignorant to it all. It just made it easier.”
For Meredith, the last week before Justin’s return was the worst as the date kept changing. All of her fears melted away, though, when he came off the plane and she threw her arms around him.
“I was so nervous coming over here, but when I saw him, I wasn’t nervous anymore,” she said. “I was just happy.”
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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