For some people, the sounds and sights of an airport spark fear or stress. But for April Medina and her two kids, Sophie and Leo, there's nowhere else they'd rather be on a Monday than at the Dubuque Airport.
Air Force Technical Sergeant Julio Medina greets his two children, Sophie and Leo, after being gone for eight months. (Allison Wong, KCRG-TV9)
"He's been gone from us since last June," April said while sitting her four-year-old daughter on her lap.
Her husband, Air Force Technical Sergeant Julio Medina, has been gone from the family for a total of eight months, six of which were spent in Kuwait.
"I'm so excited to share the kids with him again," April said and reflected on how the kids have changed in that time. "When he left Leo was only 2 and he only said like two words put together, and now he can have a conversation with you."
The kids proudly wore signs on their chests' that announced their father's arrival. Sophie's read "welcome home daddy, your princess missed you!" Leo's said "Move it. My daddy is coming home today!"
Gathered at the arrival gate, the three finally saw Julio and the kids ran to him.
After many hugs, kisses, and exchanges of "I love you" Julio said, "it’s kind of surreal. It doesn’t feel real that I’m here but it’s amazing."
He spent 244 days away from his family and he says his wife made it work by FaceTiming and texting.
"The real hero is my wife, like making things happen. It couldn’t have been easier because of her," he said.
He hopes his homecoming helps people remember those still serving overseas.
"It’s not something that we really focus on and I think that it’s important to focus on the veterans community," he said. Julio plans to work with the veteran community in Dubuque. “I’d like to just get involved locally in the community and see, you know like what I can do to help with other veterans that come in.”
However, he says his main mission is to just get readjusted to being back home.
"It’s just really good to be home," he said.