Two days after the birth of his daughter Brinley June, U.S. Army Specialist Derek Wiley returned to Amarillo on leave from tour in Afghanistan.
America Supports You Texas organized a rally for Wiley at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport, and he was greeted with American flags, handshakes from fellow veterans and gratitude from strangers. Above all, he was welcomed home by his family and the two-day-old baby he was longing to see.
Due to airplane mechanics in Kandahar, sandstorms in Kuwait and weather in Dallas, Wiley was late getting home and missed the birth of his daughter. She came two days sooner than planned.
"My heart hurt so much for him when he couldn't be here when she was born because he's a great daddy," Wiley's mother Donna said.
One day after the couple found out they were going to have their second child, Wiley was informed of his deployment. He flew out in December and was gone for the majority of his wife's pregnancy. Whitney said going through labor without her husband was hard enough, and then having to wait to see him because of delays made her even more anxious.
"I think he'll be in shock, first of all with all the people there and all his family and all my family there," she said. "And then he'll be bawling once he sees Brinley, so lots of excitement and tears."
Whitney arrived at the airport with the baby, her son Jace, her mother, her father and her sister just in time to see Wiley walking out of the terminal. Members of his family were there with posters proudly displaying the red, white and blue.
"Relief for me- relief just to see him safe and see his face, that he was smiling and happy," Donna added.
Members of America Supports You Texas prayed for Wiley, thanked him for his service and cheered loudly as he held Brinley for the first time.
Wiley then made his way through the crowd, playing with his son, hugging members of his family and wiping away tears of joy as he was embraced by the people whose love gets him through every day.
"Protecting people like this and, you know, people in this great state and this great country- I mean, it makes it all worth it when you come home and see everybody waiting for you off of the plane," Wiley said. "It makes all those hard days and all the bad things you see, it makes everything worth it."
Wiley's first plan of action after returning to the Texas Panhandle- eating Mexican food at Ruby Tequila's. After that, he said, he plans to take it easy.
"I am going to relax. I've been busy for six months, working non-stop every day and it wears on you. So, I'm just going to relax with my family and love as much as I can while I'm here."
Wiley's brother, Sgt. Richard R. Wiley, is currently stationed in North Carolina. He was recently on leave, as well, and missed his brother by only a few days.