GULFPORT -- James Vaughan and his father, Jim Vaughan, served in the same Air Force unit. They were both at Keesler Air Force Base, both spent time overseas and both performed the same job.
Jim eventually left the Air Force, spent 20 years with Gulfport police and retired in May.
That was a month after James left for his second deployment. He flew out on his 21st birthday.
He came home on Friday.
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After eight months away from home, 14 members of the 81st Safety Forces Squadron returned to a group of happy and tearful parents, spouses, children and fellow airmen.
"This is a great opportunity," said Chief Master Sgt. Robert DeGennaro. "Them coming home in time for the holidays. And with Veterans Day on Wednesday that's even better."
The Defenders, as they are known, spent six months at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, providing base security. It's the same duty they have at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi - just with heightened security.
"We're real excited," said Margaret Vaughan, James Vaughan's mother. "We're glad to have him, and all of them, home safe. It was a trying time."
A group of 14 airmen arriving at the same time isn't common on the Coast - those stationed at Keesler tend to travel in smaller groups.
"They've been away from their families a long time," said Maj. Devin Sproston. "This is a big deal for the unit, for the base, for the Air Force."
So the Gulfport airport was full of well-wishers, including other members of the same unit. There were plenty of welcome home signs and balloons and plenty of children rushing into their parents' arms.
Since their parents had been away they had grown, entered a new grade in school, lost a tooth.
Staff Sgt. Jared Miller held his daughter, Savana, 3, who had run over to him the second he walked through the door.
"I'm glad to be home and be holding my two ladies," he said. "And to see how much she's grown since I've been gone."
His wife, Shauna Miller, added, "There's a lot of relief he's home safe."
The returning Defenders had different things they were looking forward to. Sleeping in their own beds, going hunting, seeing family and friends.
Family members also had some plans.
Jim Vaughan had watched the deployment with trepidation.
"I really like he's doing it," he said. "On the other hand it's nerve-wracking. Me doing it is one thing but him is another."
He and his wife had a few traditions while their son was gone and Jim had vowed not to cut his hair until his son returned. He'd be getting a haircut soon. And James will take the first snip off.