For Air National Guard Master Sergeant Matt Arbogast, a six-month overseas deployment was out of the ordinary.
“Before this deployment, Matt’s military life was something that didn’t personally affect our family other than the one weekend a month, 3 weeks a year,” Matt’s wife Ashley Arbogast said of his 15-year service. “I feel like it’s maybe more of a difficult transition being a Guard member because we are not surrounded by the military community you would get living by a base. We typically live somewhat of a “normal” civilian life.”
With three children at home and one on the way, the six-month deployment schedule was less than ideal.
“This deployment was anything but a “walk in the park” for us,” Ashley said. “You joke that all things are going to break or go wrong while your husband’s away…and you find it to be true. I possibly had a few more visits from Chief Koller than I’d have liked and it got to the point where Matt jokingly told me I wasn’t allowed leave the house anymore.”
“But all bad things aside I believe that one amazing thing we’ve gained from it is renewed and strengthened faith in God,” she continued. “In early June we welcomed our fourth child and Matt was able to be present via FaceTime.”
With their newborn, Braxten, at home, Matt could not wait to hug and kiss his son for the first time when he arrived in Peoria on Thursday evening.
Taking on the parenting responsibilities single-handedly was a giant task for Ashley, but she said she found strength through her faith in God.
“Thankfully, we serve an amazing God who has continued to give us the strength and ability to push through each day,” she said.
Neighbors, friends at Grace Church and community members not only came out to line to welcome Matt home Friday afternoon, but Ashley said the group that rallied around her family during Matt’s deployment has become like family.
Whether she needed help with dinner, prayers, babysitting or household chores, Ashley said the people around her throughout the past six months helped to “keep me sane on days I was pretty sure I was going to lose it.”
But, for the Arbogast family, the homecoming caravan on Friday afternoon brought together those who helped to support the family and those who “are just genuinely thankful for his service and excited for his return.”
Family members, friends and community members lined IL Route 150, Lake of the Woods Road and Tin Cup Road to welcome Matt home Friday afternoon.
Organized by Ashley’s friends and Grace Church, word began to spread about Matt’s return on Monday morning and by Friday afternoon, children were holding signs, adults were holding flags and everyone waved to the Arbogast family as they traveled between the Corn Belt Fire Department trucks and the Mahomet Police Department vehicle.
Now Matt will go back to his regular routine of training for the National Guard on the weekends. But most of all, he will just appreciate the time he has with his wife and children.