At 7 p.m. Monday, Jadee Martin couldn't sit still because he was coming home in 20 minutes. Despite the valiant efforts of family and friends to distract her, she couldn't keep her eyes from darting to check the arrivals board at Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
The 21-year-old Jadee was waiting to welcome home her husband, Lance Cpl. Matthew Martin, from Iraq.
Matthew Martin, 23, is a Marine in the Fourth Force Recon Reserves, which has been stationed in Fallujah for seven months. The Douglas High School graduate lives in Carson City.
He spent seven months protecting convoys, and received the Purple Heart after an IED detonated near the Humvee in which he was traveling. The shrapnel wounds to the face he received have healed.
Monday night, Martin was among the 12 members of the unit welcomed home by a raucous crowd. The group wanted to return home Saturday, but were unable to find a flight with 12 open seats until Monday evening.
Along with his wife, Martin had a contingent of 14 people eagerly awaiting his return. None more so than his mom, Norma Knox.
"I'm excited, but it's not real yet, not until I see his face," Knox said.
She said that all she wanted was a hug from her son, but was happy to step back and give his wife the first chance.
"You stay positive, but you are always thinking about the worst: that they might not come back. You have to do that to try to prepare yourself, just in case," Knox said.
While they waited for signs of the soldiers coming down the concourse, the group passed out flags, hung banners and talked like old friends.
Jadee recalled when Martin was activated and how she learned to deal with hearing bad news on television after he left.
"All I know is, I play it day-to-day. No matter what happens, you just have to let it go and know that (the military) will tell us if something is wrong," she said.
Helen and John McCreagh of Carson City watched the gathering group of military families.
"In World War II, when (John) came home, there was no one there to greet him. They kept us in the dark and we couldn't meet them," Helen said. "I think it's just great that they have this waiting for them. They deserve that."
Just after 7:30 p.m., the dozen men dressed in street clothes walked into view amid a communal, ear-piercing scream.
"I'm really shocked. I didn't think it would be this big a welcome," Martin said. "I've had dreams of this every night I spent in Iraq."
The Marines were unable to wear uniforms because it increases the likelihood that the men, and the civilian airplane on which they are traveling, could become a target.
Martin said he was looking forward to a cold beer, a good night's sleep and spending time with his wife and family.
"I want to spend time with my wife and visit with family. Just relax, that's what I want," he said.
Martin said it was the letters and packages - from both family and strangers - that keeps the troops going.
"They need our support. The letters and packages we got, even from people I didn't know saying 'thank you,' that's what kept us motivated," Martin said.
Watching her son-in-law return home, Debbie Ohl said it has changed the way she looks at her country.
"It gives you a whole new approach when you say the Pledge of Allegiance when you have family serving," she said.
• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.