Updated: May 01, 2021 08:34 PM
Created: May 01, 2021 07:01 PM
It was a big day for friends and family of some Minnesota National Guard members. They returned home on Saturday from Africa after being gone for almost a year.
“The last few minutes almost seem to be the hardest. Because it's so close but yet not here just yet,” said Rebecca Rankin, wife of a National Guard soldier Lt. Col. Chip Rankin.
Members of the Minnesota Army National Guard were escorted from the airport and back to Rosemount.
“I think a lot of us thought COVID would be in the rear-view mirror coming home today,” Chip Rankin said.
The pandemic changed the timeline for their deployment.
“For the last three deployments, obviously our families were able to be with us to the very end — departure ceremony, in-person events. So unfortunately this year with COVID, the start of our mission we had to do everything virtual. And then we had to start 15 days ahead so that we could have a quarantine period,” Rankin said.
Usually it’s about nine months, but Saturday marks 11 months since they left home.
"Made it a little harder,” Chip Rankin said.
They say their mission in the Horn of Africa was to provide force protection through security forces in the region of Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya. And during that time, they missed out on a lot.
“And then I see how much they've grown! Wow. They've grown so much it's amazing,” Chip Rankin said about his children.
2020 was a year for the history books.
“Some parts of it were very normal, some parts of it when it was difficult, were very difficult,” Rebecca Rankin said.
The soldiers were overseas when Minnesota was being watched by the world as riots broke out following George Floyd’s death.
“It's just a lot of worry with the riots and all the unrest and stuff,” Lt. Jerret Wright said. “It's heartbreaking to see because there were so many issues going on.”
But now, their loved ones are back safe.
“So many emotions go away as soon as you have them home,” said Joeline Wright, Jerret Wright’s wife.
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