LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - It was a Texas sized welcome at the East Texas Regional Airport for Master Sergeant Eric Allen of Gladewater who has served in the Air Force for 13 years. Following two tours in Iraq, he is now home with his wife and three children.
Allen was shocked when his extended family and the Welcome Home Soldiers volunteers warmly greeted him.
"The support that we get back here is unlike anywhere you see," said Allen. "In Hawaii we didn't have support like this. I can't thank everybody enough for coming out."
"This is just our way of showing that a lot of people out here realize what they do - what he does," said Melanie Allen, Eric's mom.
Allen's parents say serving in the military is in the family genes. His father and grandfather were in the Air Force.
"[I'm] proud of him," said Eric's grandfather, Beuford Morgan.
"[I'm] just trying to hold the tears back...prideful," said Eric's dad, Jimmy Allen.
"This is something I knew I wanted to do since I was a little kid," said Eric. "I had model airplanes hanging from the ceiling and Air Force posters hanging on the wall."
His responsibility in the Air Force is different than his dad and grandpa's. The husband and father of three is a weather forecaster and provides service to not only the Air Force, but also the Army.
"It is definitely a different environment than working with Air Force and it is something I thoroughly enjoy," he said.
Allen says his knack for weather started at home.
"I have always loved weather," he said. "Growing up in East Texas, there is all kinds of weather going on around us."
"He's supposed to be real good at it," said Morgan.
Master Sergeant Allen will now be stationed in Germany.
The Welcome Home Soldiers group started in 2007, and they say they have welcomed more than 200 East Texas soldiers since then.