ROCK SPRINGS – Aly Bond clutched a sign that said “Home is where the heart is and mine is finally home” as she awaited the return of her husband, Spc. Michael Bond with the Wyoming Army National Guard.

The family of 1st Sgt. Michael Clancy stood a short distance away and held up a banner announcing “Welcome Home Michael Clancy. We’ve Missed You!!”

They were joined by friends, family and other supporters on Wednesday night at the Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport as they watched for the last inbound flight of the day.

The wait was worth it, even when it had lasted longer than expected.

AWAY FROM HOME

The two deployed to Afghanistan about eight months ago. It was the first deployment for Spc. Bond and the third for Clancy.

1st Sgt. Clancy’s parents, Mike and Cindy Clancy, said he joined the military right out of high school, around 1994 or 1995, and he had been sent to Iraq twice. Being away less than a year, family said this was his shortest deployment, and probably his last as he plans to retire in April 2021.

When he’s not activated with the Wyoming National Guard’s 300th Field Artillery Regiment, he works as a water treatment operator in Lander and previously served as a sheriff’s deputy.

His family has been busy during his absence.

“We built a house while he was gone,” said Mindy Clancy, his wife.

She said he didn’t expect them to get it done, but they put together the three-bedroom and two-bath home, though the basement is unfinished.

“He gets the basement,” she said.

His family said they’re looking forward to just hanging out with him. His mother noted there’s a lot of foods he can’t get when overseas, so they had some of his favorites waiting back at the homestead.

Skipper Davey, 1st Sgt. Clancy’s father-in-law, “he’d rather have a hamburger than a steak.”

Multiple family members chimed in to say, with ketchup and extra mayonnaise.

While his time in Afghanistan had followed the expected schedule, the coronavirus delayed the company’s return to Wyoming. They were quarantined in Texas at the end of June, as part of new protocols. Though no one in the company tested positive, it did force the Clancy family to cancel a planned trip to Mexico.

While passing time before the plane’s arrival, they discussed alternative trips like driving to see the redwoods in California or Glacier National Park in Montana.

They shared some past memories, such as the trip they took to Florida before he was deployed. McKenna Clancy, his youngest daughter, said they went fishing and caught a barracuda.

SUPPORTING FRIENDS AND BROTHERS

One didn’t have to have a history with the returnees to have a connection.

Army National Guard Spc. Caleb Sprecher arrived at the homecoming without knowing the names of the men who were flying in. He lives in Green River and had been a member of the 1041st Engineer Company before transferring to the 133rd Engineer Company.

“I came up because it was here,” he said.

Spc. Sprecher said he joined the military to emulate his grandfather, who had a strong influence on his life and had served in World War II and Korea.

When asked what he would say to those thinking of joined the armed forces, he said, “It’s a great opportunity for personal growth. You gain friends and brothers everywhere you go.”

He said, personally, this had been the greatest benefit he enjoyed.

Just before the disembarkments began, Skipper Davey approached Specher.

“Thank you for coming out,” he said. “Thank you for your service, too.”

RACING FOR A REUNION

Families took their positions even before the plane arrived. Anticipation grew as the airport staff readied baggage equipment and unlocked the arrival doors. Jet engines whirred and then died down.

A text message alerted the crowd that the passengers were getting ready to deplane.

Aly Bond was bouncing on her feet.

“I’m so excited,” she said.

The first ones in the terminal seem surprised by the crowds.

“For me? Really?” one joked before hustling toward the parking lot.

“I’m sure they put him in the back,” Aly Bond predicted, later adding her husband had been to six our seven countries on his deployment.

Conversations would pause as people stopped to scan the faces of each person who entered.

Then two smiling men appeared.

In a rush, McKeena and Madison Clancy sprinted toward their father, with their mother just behind; and Aly Bond leaped into the arms of her husband. They held on far a long time, before breaking away to meet the others who awaited them.

More tears, hugs, laughs and photos followed, interspaced with both loud and quiet moments.

Eventually the banner was rolled up and bags redistributed. The revelry continued even as the crowd headed into the parking lot. Some started to catch up Spc. Bond on all he’d missed and how things had changed.

“10 months is a long time, or something,” Michael Bond said as he exited the airport.

He hadn’t reached his house yet, but he was already home.

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