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174th back from duty in Mideast

Saturday, September 15, 2001

By Walt Wasilewski

At around 1 a.m. Friday, Ryan Derby adjusted the brim of his white sailor's cap and stood tall to catch a glimpse of his father.

The 14-year-old Clary Junior High School student and his mother, Janice, spotted his dad, Master Sgt. Carlton Derby, near the rear of the line of about 100 174th Fighter Wing members streaming off a chartered commercial jet carrying them home from patrolling Iraq's southern no-fly zone.

Carlton Derby's face lighted up with a smile. He brandished an American flag folded into a triangle, a reminder of duty at Prince Sultan air base in Saudi Arabia. Ryan Derby, in his white Naval Sea Cadet uniform, waved one of his father's military honors in reply: the citation and medal that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People awarded him in 1999 for distinguished service. Carlton Derby won the Roy Wilkins Renowned Service Award that year; he was selected from among 89 Air National Guard units.

Ryan Derby's proud salute was part of an outpouring of relief, joy and patriotism by about 60 loved ones who gathered in a hangar at Hancock Field early today for a belated homecoming for the New York Air National Guard members.

This homecoming was tinged with more anxiety than in the past, though. Tuesday's terror attacks had sent a chill through the waiting families. The unit's chartered jet, after stops in Cairo and at Shannon Airport, Ireland, was over the Atlantic when the first of two hijacked jetliners plowed into the World Trade Center.

© 2001 The Post-Standard. Used with permission.

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