To say that Lt. Col. Mike Orlando had some family at Friday’s Delaware Army National Guard welcome home ceremony in Smyrna would be an understatement.
“My wife, my parents, my father – he’s a Korean War veteran – three sisters, a brother,” Orlando said. And he wasn’t quite done. “My in-laws, nieces, nephews.”
In all, there were about 20 family members who gave him the support he needed during his more than 12 months away from home.
“Just to be around your loved ones and your family, it’s great,” Orlando said between tearful hugs and kisses.
The biggest hug came from his wife Liza, herself a member of the military, specifically the Air Force Reserve.
“As a wife (the last year) was very nerve-wracking,” she said. “Constant worry. Constant worry.”
And as a fellow member of the military?
“It’s an awesome sense of pride. Basically it feels like I went with him. So it’s just an amazing feeling and I’m so happy for him to be home.”
Orlando was one of six volunteers honored after a year-long tour in Afghanistan with the Mississippi Army National Guard. They were part of a much larger group in Afghanistan responsible for receiving and distributing supplies to all military units all over the country.
“I mean everything,” said Col. Ruth Irwin, one of the honored soldiers and leader of the Delaware group. “From water to fuel to ammunition. Everything they needed came through our organization.”
One thing Irwin says she learned during her time away was the gift of appreciation.
“You appreciate the very simplest of things,” she said. “Not just your family and your friends, but electricity, the house you live in, the fact that I can drive a car.”
Those are all things many Americans take for granted, but not Irwin, at least not anymore.
“This country is so great, you really do appreciate being in the United States,” she said. “You really realize you would fight to defend our quality of life.”
Other members of the Delaware Army National Guard Individual Mobilization Augmentees of the 184th Expeditionary Sustainment Command who returned home to Delaware are Capt. Kelley Carey, 1st Lt. Tribhuwan Singh, Sgt. Maj. Dennis Lindgren, and Sgt. 1st Class John Beers.
U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons were among the speakers at the event. Gen. Frank Vavala, Adjutant General of the Delaware National Guard, also addressed the packed auditorium, specifically his troops:
“You make us all proud to be Delawareans, and all proud to be Americans.”