MANCHESTER — Devin Martin stepped off a plane at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport on Thursday night, returning from a six-month deployment in Kuwait and into 50 arms waiting to hug him.
“It’s awesome,” the 2012 Merrimack High School graduate and New Hampshire Air National Guard airman said after receiving hugs from the 25 family members and friends who greeted him at the airport. “Especially since I came home to all my family and friends, I couldn’t be happier.”
One of those, of course, was his mother, Eileen, holding a large “Welcome Home A1C Martin” sign. The “A1C” stands for “airman first class.”
“It’s really exciting,” she said a few minutes before her son’s plane landed. “I can’t wait to see him. I’m tearing up already.”
But before the Guardsmen could walk through the final gate, each was given a handshake and a hug from the unit’s assistant fire chief, Mike Chisholm.
“Unless you’ve served, it’s hard to explain why,” Chisholm, who fought back his own tears, said of the hugs. “I’m just so proud of the work they did.”
Martin was one of six members of the 157th Civil Engineering Squadron who are stationed at Pease Air National Guard Base in Newington. The six left in February for Kuwait. They are members of the fire service that serves Pease Air National Guard Base; some also work as firefighters in area communities.
Martin hopes to become a professional firefighter for “anywhere that will hire me.”
He said the deployment was everything he’d anticipated.
“It’s always hot. It’s always sandy,” he said. “It was everything we trained for and more.”