ELDERSBURG — Red, white, blue and a new baby too greeted Army Staff Sgt. Neill Tipton at Baltimore Washington International Airport on Wednesday evening.
Jane J. Tipton chose patriotic colors for her family's reunion. She and her daughters dressed in bright red and white. She put her 2-week-old son in blue.
After nine months, Neill Tipton was returning from the Persian Gulf and meeting his son and namesake for the first time.
Although Jane planned a big party at home, she wanted only the children with her at the airport.
"It was Neill's first look at the baby, and I was a little worried what our 2-year-old daughter would do," she said.
She worried needlessly. As soon as Kathleen spotted her father, she yelled, "There's my dad," and ran to him.
"I hugged my wife, picked up my girls and looked at my son," Neill said. "I knew I was home."
The Tiptons had planned to be together when their youngest child was born. The Army had other ideas for the signals intelligence analyst. Little Neill didn't cooperate either, timing his arrival more than a month ahead of schedule.
"When my husband left for Germany last fall, I thought I was expecting," Jane said. "I figured we would make plans when Neill came home for Christmas. The way things turned out, though, he missed the entire pregnancy."
In early December, Neill's unit was sent from Stuttgart to the Middle East. He spent Christmas and the following five months in northern Saudi Arabia, monitoring Iraqi communications.
"While stationed about 40 miles from theIraqi border, we used aircraft to do collection of Iraqi radio signals," he said.
Once the air war started in January, he said, all heheard for hours and hours every day were planes overhead. Although his unit lived in tents and close to the fighting, he said, it was well-protected.
"There never was a time when any of us felt threatened," he said.
He was surprised at how quickly the war ended.
"After months of hearing how well-trained the Iraqi Republican Guard was, it was amazing that they just rolled over and died."
His unit continued collection operations until returning to Germany early last month. He delayed his leave home until this month, when the baby was due.
Both Tiptons had words of gratitude for the support they received. Neill plans a visit to stepdaughter Kathleen Johns' fourth-gradeclassroom this week. He wants to tell the Carrolltowne Elementary pupils about Desert Storm and thank them for their letters.
"Mail from my family was often late," he said. "We got 'Dear Service' lettersall the time though, and they offered us tremendous support."
Jane said in their four years of marriage the couple has experienced frequent separations, when Neill served in Honduras and Panama.
"Thistime was the longest and the worst," she said. "I couldn't have doneit without the help of my mother, the rest of my family and the neighbors."
The Carrolltowne Homeowners Association also wanted to say"Welcome Home." Members decorated the cul-de-sac where the Tiptons live with flags, banners and yellow ribbons.
At the end of his 30-day leave, Neill will finish the remaining six weeks of his tour in Germany. On Aug. 29, he will report for Warrant Officer School at Fort Rucker, Ala.
After that, he is hoping for an assignment close to home, maybe at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County.