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421st Fighter Squadron returns from Afghanistan to hugs and kisses

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CLEARFIELD — Members of the 421st Fighter Squadron from Hill Air Force Base returned home Tuesday after an eight-month mission supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.

Family members waited first in the hanger and then moved outside in time to see the commercial jet land and taxi in the distance. Then about 8:45 a.m., the hugs and kisses and smiling started — and didn’t stop for a long time.

Tech Sgt. Andrew Cronin’s wife, Amanda, gave birth to a baby girl while he was away. In fact, he was deployed during both of his girls' births, and participated by video conference with the hospital. They have a 3-year-old girl and a 5-month-old infant.

“Daddy wasn't here when she was born, so she is meeting Daddy for the first time,” Amanda Cronin said. She made a sign attached to her daughter’s stroller saying, “Outta my way! I’m finally meeting my daddy.”

After a heartfelt hello to his oldest daughter, he met 5-month-old Madelyn for the first time.

“Oh my goodness,” he said while holding Madelyn. “She’s smaller than I expected. She’s beautiful. She looks just like her sister and mom.”

Back with his girls, Cronin said he is ready for a new mission.

“I plan on feeding this one (Madelyn) a majority of the time and changing almost all the diapers,” he said.

“I’m going on vacation,” his wife replied with a laugh.

She said it was a relief to have him home and they are excited to spend time together as a family.

“It’s good to be home. It feels amazing,” he said.

Master Sgt. Scott Bradbury just finished his third deployment. “It’s been a long-awaited reunion,” his wife, Lisa Bradbury, said.

His children were also there to welcome him home Tuesday. “Welcome home Dad, and it's home plate,” son Stephen Bradbury said while describing the sign he made.

“He missed a pregnancy, he missed a birth, and now we get to have him home,” Bradbury's wife said.

It was also a happy reunion for Daniel Delay and his wife, Senior Airman Rebecca Delay. They have been married just over a year, but she was gone during most of that time.

“It’s amazing that she’s finally coming back,” Delay said while holding a bouquet of flowers.

He works on the F-35, while she was working on F-16 engines while deployed.

The 300 members of the 421st Fighter Squadron were certainly busy in Afghanistan. They conducted more than 2,800 sorties and dropped more than 100 guided bombs.

These airmen get the next two weeks off to just be with their families.

As the 388th Fighter Wing transitions to the F-35, it’s likely this is the final combat operation for Hill’s F-16s after nearly 40 years of providing air superiority for U.S. forces, according to a press release from Hill Air Force Base.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

Email: spark@deseretnews.com; mrichards@deseretnews.com