GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE — Ten-year-old Leif Aufderheide kept cracking the door and looking outside to a nearby Air Force hanger.
It was from the hanger his dad would soon walk. It’d been more than two months since Leif had seen his father, and he said he really missed him.
Ten minutes passed, then 20 minutes. Leif kept cracking the door and looking outside.
Then his dad was there, walking from the hanger. Leif exploded from the door, sprinted across the yard and jumped into his arms.
Erik Auferheide embraced his son, holding his head in his arms.
“This is the best part of being alive,” he said.
Air Force Commander Erik Auferheide was just one of around 40 airmen who flew into Grissom Air Reserve Base Monday afternoon after serving months overseas in southwest Asia as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The members of the 434th Air Reserve Wing based out of Grissom were supporting the in-flight refueling operations of U.S. and coalition aircraft in the region. While overseas, they were assigned to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing.
Family and friends gathered at the base to welcome their loved ones home, just in time for Thanksgiving. Some brought signs saying, “Welcome Back.” Others brought flowers and cookies.
“I’m very fortunate to be back for the holidays,” Erik said. “There’s people who are getting deployed right now who won’t be around for Christmas, so I’m pretty lucky.”
Since he left, Erik grew a thick, black mustache during his deployment. He asked Leif if he liked it. Leif said, not really.
Now that his dad’s back, Leif said he was looking forward to going ice skating with him and having him around to go to his basketball games.
Erik said he was looking forward to all of that, too.