This time last year the Bragg family was celebrating a somber Independence Day as they were preparing to say goodbye to Captain Joel Bragg as he left for his fourth deployment to Afghanistan.
It was a bittersweet celebration for the Braggs, knowing their hero was going to fight to protect their freedom overseas. "We all knew why i was going over there; we all felt there was a purpose to it," Capt. Bragg told Fox 25.
This July 4th brought another Independence Day, but an entirely different celebration as Captain Bragg was welcomed home by his family at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.
"We've had ups and downs we've had good times, we had good people who are with us," said Larissa Bragg as she waited for her husband's flight to land, "It's been hard on both of us but we survived."
Captain Bragg said coming home on Independence Day holds a special significance to him. "It's an amazing experience," he told Fox 25, "I've waited an entire year to come home and be done with deployment and spend time with family; it's the perfect day to come home."
Bragg serves as a flight instructor at Vance Air Force Base in Enid. In Afghanistan he worked to teach members of that country's military how to fly. "Basically we're building their air force from the ground up."
Bragg said it was difficult watching his children grow up via Skype and email, but he knows his mission was worth the long-distance heartache. "That's what really makes deployment bearable is knowing I'm over there protecting their freedom and the freedom of everybody I love here."