CLINTON — Kristina Golden waited nearly a year to breathe.
As she watched her husband, Lt. Col. Wes Golden, return to Iowa earlier this month with the rest of his Iowa Army National Guard unit, she took what felt like her first breath since August.
“Everybody expects something different. They ask if I jumped up and down or screamed. But it’s more of a relief to be able to lay eyes on him,” she said.
Wes Golden returned on July 13 with the 1034th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, which was deployed to northern Afghanistan for nine months.
The 60-soldier battalion was mobilized in August 2012 for training in Texas before being deployed overseas for Operation Enduring Freedom. All 60 returned.
“I always tell people when you’re over there it’s 99.9 percent shear boredom and .1 percent shear terror,” Wes, a Clinton High School science teacher and cross country coach, said. “I kept very busy so the time went by faster.”
While in Afghanistan, Wes, 41, was in control of a logistics unit that commanded and controlled subordinate units providing crucial support, such as maintenance and clean water.
Returning home to Clinton, Wes found he wasn’t the one calling the shots anymore. That duty belonged to Kristina, 39, and their daughters, Prushia, 11, and Adelais, 6.
“There I was in charge. Everyone came to me. Here, I’m the lowest-ranking person,” he joked during a welcome home reception at the Clinton AMVETS.
Besides sleeping in his own bed and returning to teaching and coaching this fall, Wes said he most looked forward to being with his wife, children and other family.
“It feels good. Family is everything so seeing your kids, your wife. I like being around them; watching what they want to watch, doing what they want to do, talking about what they want to talk about,” he said.
Wes was deployed to Iraq from 2003 to 2004. At the time, the couple had one child and Prushia was too young to remember her dad being away. Every family member was old enough to feel Wes’s latest absence.
This deployment also was different because the family had the tools to stay more connected, such as through email, Skype and Facebook. Wes was even able to Skype with all of Prushia’s Jefferson Elementary School classmates during an assembly.
Even with the increased communications, Wes’s absence was palpable during holidays, birthdays and special occasions like Prushia’s fifth-grade graduation.
The family isn’t focused on the 11-month stretch without Wes. They concentrate on being a family reunited.
“I’m really, really happy he’s back,” Prushia said. “I knew he was going to be OK, but I’m glad everyone is home and things are back to normal. I just want to hang out and goof around.”