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Iowa Air National Guard Firefighters Return Home from Africa

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Ten Iowa Air National Guard soldiers returned home on Monday after being in Africa for six months.

Matthew Stern, a firefighter for the Iowa Air National Guard, was welcomed home by his mom, Susan Smith, his two sisters and his wife at the Des Moines International Airport.

“My son’s been in the Air Guard since high school practically, and this is his first deployment, and he’s been close before but he’s been gone now for 6 months. He left right after the Fourth of July,” Smith said.

She said it was the most she had missed her son since he went through training.

“It seemed to go by fairly quickly. I sent him care packages very often, which he shared with his comrades. He said they really liked the homemade cookies,” Smith said.

They were able to text each other every day, but she hadn’t actually seen him since he left.

“Time change though was nine hours, so I tried to be careful about texting him at one in the morning. It was a little difficult,” Smith said.

Stern said he has been in the Air National Guard for about nine years.

“We did firefighting operations on a small airbase out in Africa. We just pretty much did everything a normal firefighting group would do here in the city,” Stern said.

He said he really missed the food at home, and the first thing he’s going to do is have dinner with his wife at The Cafe in Ames.

“We had a lot of repeat dishes over there, so I’m excited to have some variety,” Stern said.

Smith said she is so proud of her son.

“I’m so happy they all made it home safely,” she said.

Smith even left her Christmas tree up so they all could celebrate.

“We got to do some back celebration on birthdays and Christmases while I've been gone, so that’ll be fun. It’ll be a quick couple weeks here to start, but I’m just happy to be home,” Stern said.