BANGOR, Maine — Brooke Lidback of Newburgh had long planned to keep her Christmas tree up and leave most of her presents unopened even after the holiday ended, knowing that her husband, Chief Warrant Officer Todd Lidback, a pilot in a Maine Army National Guard medevac company, was due home soon after Jan. 1.
“We’re saving Christmas,” Brooke Lidback said. “We all have our trees up and we haven’t given our gifts out for certain members of the family. We don’t want him to miss anything.”
Still, the Lidback family had a special holiday with two very memorable presents. Two days before Christmas, the Lidback family’s first grandchild was born to Todd’s brother Shawn and his wife, Jenn.
And two days after Christmas, the Lidbacks were able to greet Todd in person as his Bangor-based regiment landed at Bangor International Airport for nearly two hours for refueling.
Four-day-old Natalie Lidback, Todd’s new niece, was probably the youngest of hundreds of family members, friends and troop greeters who met members of Charlie Company 1-126th Aviation regiment.
About 130 soldiers, who have been deployed to Iraq for nine months, walked into the airport’s second-floor waiting area just after 9 a.m. Saturday to cheers, flags and tears from those at the airport, some of whom had been waiting more than two hours.
The regiment, also known as the Black Bears, left Kuwait on Friday and stopped in Ireland before landing in Bangor. Their next stop was scheduled to be Fort Carson, Colo., where they were to be debriefed.
They expect to be back in Maine for good just after New Year’s Day.
The 126th helicopter ambulance unit flew more than 3,000 hours and evacuated more than 650 patients during their 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, shared holiday presents and watched children romp through the waiting area. One couple, the man dressed in fatigues, smooched as they sat in two chairs.
The Lidback family spent most of the visit chatting and holding tiny Natalie.
“Come here, baby,” 32-year-old Todd Lidback said as his sister-in-law placed the sleeping infant in his arms. “Look at you. You’re just sleeping away.”
Once he gave up the baby, Todd Lidback handed his wife a box of chocolate he had picked up at a duty-free store during his trip to the U.S. The two met and became friends when the 126th was deployed to Iraq with Brooke as a nurse and Todd as a pilot. The Lidbacks eventually were married in November 2007.
The stop in Bangor is rare for the regiment.
“It’s the first time we’ve been able to do that,” Todd Lidback said. “Usually we fly right over.”
Todd’s parents, 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.
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 also a pilot. “I love peanut butter. It’s just typical for my family to have all of this at Christmas.”