Florida Air Guard homecoming brings together three generations of combat veterans

Written by  //  April 12, 2012  //  Feature Stories

Florida Air National Guard members Staff Sgt. Brittany Kiselich poses with her fiance Jason Threatt (left), her grandfather Frank Klum Sr. (right) and her uncle Frank Klum Jr. during a welcome home ceremony for Kiselich's unit at the Jacksonville International Airport, April 10, 2012. Kiselich is part of the third-generation in her family to serve in military in a combat zone. Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (April 12, 2012) — When Staff Sgt. Brittany Kiselich came home from Afghanistan recently, the family greeting her at the airport were two generations of veterans who knew what it was like to return from war.

Kiselich and 24 other Airmen from the Florida Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Wing completed a six-month tour in Afghanistan on April 10. When the security forces specialists stepped off the plane at the Jacksonville International Airport they were greeted with applause, tears and hugs. Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown was the first person to greet the returning Guardsmen when they left the airplane.

But what made the homecoming extra-special for 29-year-old Kiselich was her grandfather and uncle – both military veterans – waiting in the terminal with her finance to welcome her back.

“It’s actually the most awesome feeling ever!” Kiselich, who was visibly proud of her family’s military tradition, said. “I got in (the Air Force) because most of my family was already prior military: my grandfather had 20 years; my uncle was in Vietnam; my dad was in Vietnam; my cousin’s done two tours in Iraq.”

This was Kiselich’s second tour to Afghanistan.

“I’m the first woman in my family to be in the military, so it is an honor to follow such a great generation of people,” she added.

Wearing a patriotic shirt with a miniature American Flag sticking out of the breast pocket, Kiselich’s grandfather Frank Klum Sr. explained that this homecoming reminded him of the excitement he felt returning home from Europe in 1945. He joined the Army Air Corps right after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and served throughout campaigns in Africa and Europe during World War II.

“It feels like when I left Corsica on my way back to Naples and I was coming home,” Klum, 89, said. “It’s the same feeling; I was so happy. You can’t express it.”

Standing next to the World War II veteran was his son Frank Klum Jr., who served in Vietnam from 1968-1972 and said he was also honored to be there for his niece’s return from Afghanistan.

“As veterans we’re just so proud,” Klum Jr., 64, said. “This is our country. This is what we wake up every day for; so that we can come out and know that our troops here and abroad are taking care of our freedom.”

The members of the 125th Security Forces Squadron deployed in July and September 2011, and served in and around Bagram Air Base in northern Afghanistan. During the deployment their normal aircraft flight line security mission was expanded to include patrols outside the base and entry control point security; members processed thousands of local national individuals daily through the area’s largest and busiest entry control point. 

During the March 2012 protests, the security team provided critical security, along with around-the-clock, in-depth security for a base of thousands of personnel.