BANGOR, Maine — The families of the men and women serving in a Maine Army National Guard Medevac company received a belated Christmas present Saturday morning when a plane carrying 126 members of Charlie Company 1-126th Aviation regiment landed at Bangor International Airport for almost two hours.
The troops entered the large waiting area upstairs in the terminal just after 9 a.m. to cheers from hundreds of family members, friends and troop greeters, some of whom had been waiting for more than two hours.
The regiment, also known as the Black Bears, left Kuwait Friday and stopped in Ireland before landing in Bangor. Their next stop is Fort Carson, Colo., where they will be debriefed and then return to Maine for good in about a week.
The 126th helicopter ambulance unit flew more than 3,000 hours and evacuated more than 650 patients during its nine-month deployment in Iraq. The regiment, which used to be the 112th, did not suffer any casualties.
Once they were reunited, families snapped pictures and shared holiday presents and watched children romp through the waiting area. Levant resident Meaghan Lombard, 29, was greeted by her parents, who came down from Caribou with boxes of holiday sweets.
“We had peanut fudge, peanut butter blossoms and peanut butter balls,” said Chief Warrant Officer Lombard, who is a pilot. “I love peanut butter. It’s just typical for my family to have all of this at Christmas.”
Chief Warrant Officer Todd Lidback of Newburgh, a 32-year-old pilot, was greeted by his family, including new niece Natalie, who was only four days old.
“Come here baby,” Lidback said as his sister-in-law, Jenn Lidback, placed the sleeping baby in his arms. “Look at you. You’re just sleeping away.”
Lidback’s wife, Brooke, a nurse who was in Iraq during the group’s 2003 deployment, when the 126th was known as the 112th, was also at the airport Saturday. The Lidbacks met during the regiment’s earlier deployment and got married in November 2007.
Kris and Deborah Lidback, who left their home in Bowdoin at 5 a.m. to greet their son, said Todd’s stopover and the birth of their first grandchild made for a memorable Christmas.
“It’s been a pretty special week,” Kris Lidback said.