The Marines of the HMH-362 are back home in Hawaii, ending a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan. The mission also marks the end of an era for the squadron.
This was the second deployment for Autumn Sedrick and her family. Michaela was only 9-weeks-old when Capt. Michael Sedrick left for Afghanistan.
"He loves his job, he loves flying and it's good that he can do that for the country. But it's nice that he's going to be coming home," said Autumn Sedrick, who with her husband, has four children under the age of seven.
The more than 100 marines and sailors of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362, also known as the "Ugly Angels," were tasked with flying cargo and personnel through some of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan, even coming under fire.
So the arrival in Kaneohe of the plane carrying the Marines was, understandably, emotional.
"Knowing where he was, was difficult, especially with the nature of the wars now. Anything can happen, there's really no frontline," said John Yeager, whose son, Patrick is a mechanic with the HMH-362. "I'm so proud, so very proud."
Particularly happy is the family of Staff Sgt. Andrew Peterson, who was awarded a Purple Heart after he was shot in the back while evacuating Marines during a raid of a suspected weapons compound.
"We landed on the ground and the Marines started coming in the helicopter and all of a sudden I felt like I just got punched in the back," said Peterson.
Peterson was 18 days into the mission when he was shot. The homecoming is hard to put into words for most of those arriving back in Hawaii.
"You can't describe the feeling of being in a combat zone to being back home with family. It's something you think about every day, but when it actually comes, it's almost a surreal experience," said Michael Sedrick, who was finally holding his daughter.
But it's a bittersweet moment. This mission marks a milestone. The "Ugly Angels" have served in every major engagement since the Vietnam War. This is the last deployment for the squad of CH-53D Sea Stallions. The helicopters are being retired from service.
"The taxpayer got its monies worth out of that helicopter. But as we move forward into the future, there's more capable helicopters coming on line and the Marine Corps moving forward," said Lt. Col. Christopher Oliver, commanding officer of the HMH-362.
The "Ugly Angels" will be placed on a cadre status until the arrival of the faster and stronger Sikorsky Ch-53K helicopters, expected in 2018.
The nickname, the "Ugly Angels," apparently came from the squadron's service during the Vietnam War. The massive "ugly" helicopters were used to medevac the injured out of the war zone, thereby carrying "angels" to help the wounded.