Tami and James Nordman met around Christmas 2001, in the wake of 9/11.

A year later, they were married. Soon after that, they had two kids.

But they haven't seen much of each other lately.

For all but three months of the past two years, one of the two Nebraska Army National Guard sergeants has been in Iraq.

Until Saturday, when Sgt. James Nordman returned home with 89 other members of the 2-135th General Support Aviation Battalion's C Company. The soldiers were members of the last Nebraska-based Guard unit in Iraq, a reflection of President Barack Obama's pledge to withdraw American soldiers by the end of the year.

Nebraska troops were on the ground when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. Through bombings and troop surges and two presidencies and nearly nine years, the Guard remained.

But at 11:18 a.m. Saturday, 12 minutes early, a Boeing 737 touched down at the Lincoln Airport. Despite a sharp wind whipping across the open airfield, Sgt. Tami Nordman and her 8- and 9-year-old children, James Jr. and Hope, stood there and waited.

As the plane taxied toward the line of American flags, the three Nordmans laughed, cried and hugged one another in the cold.

Then dad stepped off the plane, and the bitter weather no longer mattered.

And unlike when mom or dad's four other deployments ended, there are no plans for them to head back to the Middle East. James can help Hope with her violin and volunteer with James Jr.'s Cub Scout pack. Tami can be a mom and enjoy her new insurance job.

"It seems like for the first time in 10 years we can just relax and be a family," she said.

The cycle of deployments and homecomings is a familiar one in the Nordman household. James spent a tour in Afghanistan and just completed his second in Iraq. Two months before James arrived at his base in Iraq, Tami returned home from a deployment there.

The Nordmans weren't the only ones looking forward to family time Saturday.

Capt. Christian Kilpatrick married his wife on leave during the middle of his deployment.

His bride, fellow National Guard Capt. Rebecca Mockelman, still is stationed in Kosovo. But they matched up their time off, met in Rome and got married this July.

Kilpatrick was the Guard officer in charge of medical evacuations in Mosul, Iraq. The C Company -- a medevac unit -- used Black Hawk helicopters throughout the country to evacuate sick or wounded Americans.

While areas of the country remain volatile, Kilpatrick said, medevac units saw fewer and less severe injuries than at the war's peak. He estimated his unit flew about 100 missions over the past year.

As for the Nordmans, both sergeants said it will be a challenge readjusting to a two-parent household. But they're looking forward to a return to normalcy and an early Thanksgiving dinner this weekend.

"We just want to be together, all four of us," Tami Nordman said. "I just want to be able to talk to him without phone calls dropping."

Reach Mitch Smith at 402-473-2655 or msmith@journalstar.com.


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