GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — A soldier who missed many family milestones while serving his country for decades is finally back home to stay.
Army Master Sgt. Gerald Keen stepped off his plane and into Gerald R. Ford International Airport Tuesday to salutes, cheers and hugs from loved ones and other veterans.
The 52-year-old joined the Army back in 1984. He was sent overseas during Desert Storm and again a few years ago.
It was his third and final deployment this year that forced him to miss out on two major family milestones: his youngest son’s marriage and the birth of his second grandson.
“It doesn’t get any easier, and people don’t understand it — but when you have a spouse in the military, you’re in the military,” Keen’s wife Lynette told 24 Hour News 8.
All those years of sacrifice paid off in a single moment Tuesday.
First, it was a long embrace with his wife Lynnette. Then, a hug from each of his two sons. Finally, Keen said his first hello to his new grandson, 10-week-old Caleb.
It was a homecoming Keen found difficult to put into words.
“(It’s) overwhelming,” he said.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the concourse as he made a point to thank every person who showed up to welcome him back to West Michigan.
“I’ve learned a lot, and it’s given me more than I’ve ever given it,” Keen said of his time in the Army.
But now, after spending years away from home on both active duty and in the army reserve, he’s decided to hang up the combat boots.
Keen married Lynnette four years ago. Now, they’ll get every day, not just holidays, to spend together.
“Being with family. Family is very important to me,” Keen said when asked what he was looking forward to the most.
“It’s time for me to dedicate my life and my time to my family and my grandsons,” he added.
Keen said he wouldn’t have made it through this final deployment if not for his faith in God and the support of his wife.
He and Lynette own a farm in Grand Haven, and he’s now got a job waiting for him at Herman Miller in Zeeland.