EAST GREENBUSH, N.Y. — The Mann family celebrated a homecoming Friday and honored the 20-year military service and sacrifice of their father and husband who they've had to continually miss over the years.
“He's brave and he does it a lot,” says 10-year old Zach Mann.
Zach's dad does go away a lot, and on Friday Zach and his mom waited anxiously for the fourth time since he was born for his dad, Chief Master Sgt. Mark Mann to return home.
“It was easier when I was younger because I didn't realize he was away that long but when I get older I can actually realize it more,” said Zach.
Zach and his family have been able to lean on others over the past six months while his dad served in Afghanistan.
“It's nice to know when you're getting back here that you haven't been forgotten back home,” said Chief Master Sgt. Mark Schaible.
The men of the 109th Airlift Wing lined up at the Albany International Airport once again to support their family.
“His son had an issue while he was gone. We would communicate and constantly keep in touch with the family, make sure everything was good to go,” Chief Master Sgt. Schaible.
But Zach wasn't the only one waiting to see his father, his sister sat in an art class at Columbia High School with no idea that her day would be anything but usual.
“I'm here to surprise my daughter,” Chief Master Sgt. Mann said after leaving the airport.
With the turn of a door knob Sgt. Mann's homecoming was almost complete as he snuck quietly towards his little girl, his fourth tour overseas was far behind him.
And although the surprise and celebration helped, he realizes time didn't stop when he left
“When I left she was in middle school, now she's in high school.”
Friday was also a celebration of Sgt. Mann's 20 years of service in the air force. The family tells me there's a lot of catching up to do and it will begin at one of their favorite restaurants.