A happy reunion in Longview on July 4. (Source: KLTV News staff)
LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) -
At East Texas Regional Airport in Gregg County, family, friends and around 200 supporters waited as the plane taxied down the runway to welcome home 20-year Army veteran Sergeant 1st Class Kenneth Hanson.
Even with three tours in the Middle East and numerous assignments, nothing prepared him for the reception he received. "I honestly thought I'd just see my wife and kids and then when I heard all the yelling, then I heard her voice, and I thought 'oh my...' I told her nothing big!" Hanson said.
The sacrifice Hanson has made has been equally shared by his wife of 29 years.
"We were talking on the phone and he goes, 'Oh, I got my SPCAE gas mask on. I love you.' and left me hanging," she said.
His son Joseph said, "I'm extremely proud of him, yeah. It was tough growing up but I don't resent him for it. Someone's got to protect our country, might as well be my father."
With Patriot Guard and Welcome Home Soldier members on hand, Hanson was given a true heroes return.
"This past year has been hard. Last six months, with policy changes, I thought this was it, I'm coming home for good," he said.
He says this is a July 4 he will never forget.
"Makes a grown man cry. I got teary-eyed; it was awesome," he said.
He was also given an escort home by forty Patriot Guard riders.