VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Mary Kissam knelt next to 3-year-old Brennan Hudson and pointed at the 10 F-14 Tomcats flying in formation overhead Wednesday.
"Look up in the sky, sweetie," Kissam said to Brennan, her fiance's daughter. "That's your dad."
Minutes later, the planes landed at Oceana Naval Air Station (search) and several hundred people rushed forward to welcome 20 aviators home after five months aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. Much of the time was spent fighting the war in Iraq.
"It's so good to be back -- and back safe," Lt. Cmdr. Marc Hudson, a pilot, said after hugging Kissam and other family.
The "Black Lions" of Fighter Squadron 213 were followed by 23 single-seat F/A-18 Hornets from the "Valions" of Strike Fighter Squadron 15 and the "Golden Warriors" of Strike Fighter Squadron 87.
Lt. Cmdr. Dave Koss said he was pleased to see hundreds of people waving American flags as his "Golden Warriors" from Squadron 87 approached Oceana.
"It's what we do this for -- the going away from family, the fighting for America and the coming back to our families," said Koss, surrounded by family members who came from Jacksonville, Fla., to greet him.
Earlier Wednesday, three E-2C Hawkeye radar planes returned to Norfolk Naval Station (search). Other air squadrons from the Roosevelt returned to Fort Worth, Texas; Whidbey Island, Wash.; and Jacksonville, Fla.
The Norfolk-based Roosevelt and three ships will return Thursday, bringing home 6,000 sailors and Marines. Also Thursday, two ships in the USS Nassau (search) amphibious ready group return to Norfolk and one returns to Virginia Beach.