COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - This Thanksgiving is going to be a day of celebration for one Columbus family.
People cheered and welcomed their loved ones at the Columbus Airport as a few soldiers returned home from Afghanistan Sunday at around 11:15 a.m.Sgt. Alex Kinley with the 803rd Company was deployed to Afghanistan in May 2014, and she was expected to return home next year.
However, Sgt. Kinley and others were told their mission ended earlier than expected, so some soldiers were able to return home for the holiday season. Sgt. Kinley's 7-year-old daughter, Kaydence, has been living with her grandmother ever since Sgt. Kinley left in May.
"My mom's coming back," Kaydence explained. "I just don't know when but she said she'll pop up someday."
When asked where her mother was, Kaydence said she was in a far away country called Afghanistan. Still too young to truly understand her mother's job, Kaydence explained her mother is in the Army.
"I don't know what she's doing there but I know she's working right now," Kaydence said.
Kaydence's grandmother Felecia Kelly told Kaydence the two were at the Columbus Airport to pick up her cousin for Thanksgiving.
"Kaydence doesn't know anything," Kelly said. "She's going to be so happy because she's been asking about her mother."
The two had been waiting in the airport since 10:40 a.m. with other families who were waiting for their loved ones in the 803rd Company to return home.
Once the clock hit 11:15 a.m. people started to eagerly gather around the gate with cards and balloons.
"I'm so excited for Kaydence," Kelly said. "I'm going to miss seeing her every day. I'm used to being with her all the time since I looked after her since May. But I'll still happy for her. Kaydence has been talking about her mother ever since she left."
As soldiers in uniforms begin to enter the gate, her eyes widened as she saw her mother run to her with a wide smile.
"Mom!" Kaydence ran to Sgt. Kinley as the mother embraced her. Sgt. Kinley's 9-year-old son Alex also hugged his mother as Sgt. Kinley cried tears of joy.
"I'm so happy to be back," Sgt. Kinley said. "My children didn't know I was coming back so this was exciting because I was able to surprise them. Whenever we spoke over the phone or messages, they would ask me if I can come back home for Christmas. I'm so glad we were able to come back home for Thanksgiving."
Sgt. Kinley says this Thanksgiving is going to be like no other.
"There are no words to describe how I feel," Sgt. Kinley said. "My legs were shaking, I felt jittery the entire time I was in the plane. I'm glad to be back home."
Kaydence said the first thing she wants to with her mother when they go back home is to tell her what she did during the time her mother was in Afghanistan.
"I'm going to sit next to her and tell her what I've been doing when she wasn't here," Kaydence said. "I was feeling kind of sick this morning, but I feel all better now."