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Tears, laughter welcome soldier home from tour in Iraq

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Chief Warrant Officer 4 Larry Huff hugs his wife Sauncee after speaking to a group of family and friends that gathered Saturday afternoon at the Natchez VFW for Huff’s return from his second tour in Iraq and Afghanistan.

NATCHEZ — It has been 12 years since the entire Huff family has been under the same roof, but this weekend the family had something special to celebrate that brought relatives from across the South to Natchez.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Larry Huff, 49, of Ocean Springs, a U.S. Army MEDEVAC pilot, returned home to his family from Iraq Saturday. The family celebrated Huff’s safe return with a Christmas dinner at the VFW hall on Seargent S. Prentiss Drive.

Huff, a Natchez native, said it felt great to be home and recounted memories of his childhood to his family members that he said have shaped him into the man he is today.

Huff described memories of deer and bird hunting in Cloverdale and the life lessons he learned that he carried with him to Iraq.

“They tried to shoot me, they tried to blow me up … I became the hunted,” he said as tears welled up in his eyes. “But I remembered those times as a kid, and I thought like that deer, and I thought like that bird. It’s those things that got me through.”

Huff, who has served 32 years, logged 165 combat hours, piloted 87 fights and pulled 120 injured soldiers from the battlefield in what was his second tour in the last three years.

“This time I was in the fight, and I was in it the whole time,” he said.

That was what worried Huff’s wife, Sauncee, and his children Neil, Austin and Sara.

“It was very stressful this time because I knew he was in real danger,” Sauncee said. “We’re just so happy he is home.”

Austin said he was very proud of his father and is following in his footsteps by joining the U.S. Air Force after he finishes at the University of Southern Mississippi in 2015.

“He’s a pilot, and I’ve always been interested in becoming a pilot,” Austin said. “He said if I wanted to fly I should do it in the Air Force.”

Neil and Sara both said they were relieved their father was home.

“It stressed me out when he was gone,” Sara said. “I was worried because of not knowing what he was going through and how it was affecting him and how he was dealing with it without his family and friends.”

Huff said he would not have made it through his time in Iraq without his family back home.

“I’m really here today to thank all of you for making me into who I am today,” he said.

Huff’s parents, James A. Huff and Anne Huff, said they could not be more proud of their son and are happy he is safely home.

“This is the best Christmas I have ever had,” James said.