LAMBERT AIRPORT (KPLR) - It was a real tear jerker at Lambert Airport Wednesday night; tears of joy. Army Captain Michael Rybak returned to his growing family, soon to get bigger with the addition of a new son. Rybak, of Webster Groves, left for Afghanistan in the winter with his wife, Krista, expecting their 4th child.
She said the support from an "army" of family and friends got her through it; families from her Ascension parish in Webster Groves providing dinner for the family twice-a-week. That "army" turned out here at Lambert to welcome Capt. Rybak home; his 3 children front and center: Tyler, 9, Emily, 5, and Abby, 3.
The girls wore home-made red, white, and blue, monogrammed dresses with red cowboy boots to match. They could hardly stand the anticipation, as the final moments passed before their dad came walking out of the airport concourse.
"I saw him!" said Tyler, the first to catch a glimpse of dad.
At 8:27 p.m., he walked back into their lives after 4 months in Afghanistan, as safe and as sound as he was when he left.
Rybak is an Army nurse-anesthetist. He helped save lives as part of the Army's 629th Forward Surgical Team, working on wounded coalition forces as well as Afghani troops.
"We dealt with sick call stuff - the routine medical stuff all the way up to some pretty big surgeries," he said.
Their operation came under what he called 'indirect fire' at times.
Still, he made it home to his growing family and that 'army' of friends and relatives who came here to welcome him back from his second tour of duty as an Army Reservist; the last coming in Iraq in 2009.
His wife was three months pregnant when he was called to serve this time.
'It`s emotional," she said. "When he left I wasn't even showing yet. I was just praying nothing was going to happen, emergency-wise before he came home. So, now, you know, we can go any time," she said letting out a huge laugh of relief.
"Anytime you're away from home it's stressful. It`s always nice to be home and see everybody. It's going to take some time for us to get to know each other again because Krista's basically had to be a single mom while I'm gone," Capt. Rybak said.
His daughter's presented him with a colorful, home-made beaded necklace which he proudly wore out of the airport.
He returns to his job as a nurse-anesthetist at Barnes Hospital in a couple of weeks.
The Ryback`s new son is due in September.