MINNEAPOLIS — Nine-month-old Averly Gill was the only one of Tech Sgt. Andy Gill’s five children there to greet him when his plane landed Sunday, Jan. 19, after his deployment to Southwest Asia for the past five months.

However, Averly’s siblings — ages 5, 9, 11 and 14 and all home sick with a stomach bug — were in for the surprise of their lives when their mom, Miranda, and Averly returned home from the grocery store with dad in tow Sunday night.

Averly and her mother joined hundreds at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Air Reserve Station with flowers and signs to greet the more than 175 airmen from the Air Force Reserve’ 934th Airlift Wing who have been gone since Sept. 8.

Family and friends greeted the airmen with waving flags, flowers and signs, such as one attached to a stroller that said, “Out of our way, our Daddy is back today.”

The reunion was full of hugs and tears. As one woman put it, “It’s so happy-sad!”

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Andy and Miranda Gill knew the sick children would be disappointed they couldn’t come to the airport to greet their dad, so they decided to cook up a surprise. Instead, she said she told them she was going to the grocery store.

When she returned to their Rockford home she planned to say she had forgotten Popsicles.

Andy was going to walk in right behind her and say, “I heard you guys needed some Popsicles,” Miranda said.

The family also left Andy’s Christmas stocking for him to empty, she said.

“The most important thing is that we get them back and they are safe,” she said.

But the extra parenting help isn’t going to hurt, she said.

“I’m so excited for him to come home and help with sick kids,” she said. “And he’s excited, too. He can’t wait to have dad duty.”

Shepard Daniels of Minneapolis was waiting for his girlfriend, Daphne, with a bouquet, and he said there are more flowers and gifts at home, including a necklace, perfume and clothing. “She’s spoiled like that,” he said.

Plymouth residents Amanda Egan and her 2-year-old daughter, Rosee, were there with Amanda’s parents to greet her husband, Kyle Egan, who is a hydraulic mechanic.

She was going to whisk him home for a home-cooked meal and shower.

“I have a hot dish ready that he likes,” she said.

The group that returned was deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Operation Enduring Freedom.

It included pilots, co-pilots, navigators, crew chiefs, loadmasters, mechanics, operators, fuel specialists, logistics and other maintenance personnel crucial to keeping the four C-130 H3 Hercules aircraft operating while they transported people, cargo and supplies throughout Southwest Asia.