The Shalit family, along with the rest of the State of Israel, has been waiting for this hug 1,941 days. Today at "Tel Nof" Airbase it happened and Gilad Shalit was returned to his family.
Shalit was transferred through "Shalom Vinyard" on the way back to Israeli land. From there, he was flown in a helicopter to "Tel Nof" Airbase.
"It's a feeling of pride and respect", said Commander of the "Night Leaders" squadron, Lieutenant Colonel A', who led the flight. "Our activity usually revolves around saving lives, but this time it feels like it's about bringing life in. It truly is special, a camaraderie that I'm sure everyone who took part in the mission feels".
The flight crew included a co-pilot, an in-flight mechanic and a crew of the 669 Search & Rescue Unit. "Today began with great excitement", said Major Oded, the in-flight Doctor of the unit. "We left not knowing what awaits us but we knew it would be emotional". The Prime Minister, Commander-in-chief of the IDF and Minister of Defense all welcomed Gilad after he landed.
"Shalom Gilad, welcome back to the State of Israel. How good it is to have you back", said the Prime Minister to Gilad and later turned to parents Aviva and Noam: "I brought your child back home".
The emotional reunion with the family took place in a special site at one of the airbase's squadrons that closed in honor of the event. A medical center was also erected at the site in efforts to complete the examinations that began earlier at a base in southern Israel. Since "Tel Nof" Airbase received the mission to bring Gilad back to his family, every one of its people were busy preparing for his arrival.
"This is a historical day and a great honor for "Tel Nof" Airbase and the "Night Leaders" Squadron", said Commander of the Airbase, Brigadier General Amikam Norkin, in a preparation session for the flight. "It's a complex puzzle of which we're happy to do our part".
At the end of the reunion and medical examinations, the family left toward the helicopter that waited outside the site and took them back to "Mitzpe Hila", back home.