Surprise homecoming for Eagan family as solider dad returns from mission

Hurry up and wait.

That’s what Minnesota National Guard families have been doing for more than one year while their loved ones have been deployed overseas as part of "Operation Inherent Resolve."

The final 80 members out of the nearly 700 Guard members who had been deployed finally returned home.

There were smiles, tears and long embraces as those guard members, in camouflage uniforms, stepped off a charter plane at Terminal two at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Monday.

In the crowd was Jamira Haynes, who was trying to catch a glimpse of her husband, Sgt. Deonte Haynes, a Blackhawk helicopter mechanic in the St. Paul-based 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade.

“It’s surreal, I can’t believe that this day is here,” said Sgt. Haynes after he got off the plane to see his wife.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS first spoke to the Eagan family back in Sept. 2019.

That’s when the couple and their family of five children that range from toddlers to teens prepared for the unknown.

Minnesota Army National Guard Reservists prepare for overseas deployment

"A very long time, I don’t know what this life is like without him," Jamira said at the time of her husband’s deployment.

Many major moments took place on the home front from a pandemic, distance learning for the kids and a new home in the 13 months he was away.

“I renovated a kitchen, I bought a house,” Jamira said of life over the last year.

“She did a lot especially during the pandemic, that made it even worse, I felt really bad for denying her for anything she wanted to do, I always told her ‘Yes you can have it,’" Haynes said.

But at the airport, their kids weren’t there as the school-aged ones were taking their online classes at home.

There was still one mission left for the sergeant, as the couple planned to surprise the kids.

"My heart is definitely going to melt," Haynes said about the moment he dreamt about when they could be a family together again.

As Haynes hid behind a car as the kids came outside, one of his youngest daughters saw him first and yelled, “Daddy."

“I can’t believe you are home,” she cried out and didn’t leave his side for a second after the homecoming.

"I know I’ve missed out on a lot of milestones,” Sgt. Haynes said. “I’m excited to be back home to build more memories."