CARY – Nick Theiss and John Theiss have differing views on how the past few years have gone.
"It was always easy," said Nick Theiss, a senior airman in the Air Force who just returned home after serving three consecutive tours in Bahrain, Kuwait and Afghanistan starting in 2011. "I loved going overseas."
"It was never easy," said John Theiss, adding his son's service was far different from his own when he served in the Air Force during nonwar years from 1975 to 1981. "You always worry a little."
Easy or not, the father-son tandem celebrated the homecoming Saturday with more than 100 people who welcomed Nick Theiss home, whether it was escorting him from Woodstock to Cary on motorcycles or awaiting a celebration at his home.
Theiss returned from Afghanistan three weeks ago and was stationed at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City. He served on the primary response team during his three-country tour and is an expert marksman.
Nick Theiss said he always knew he wanted to join the military, in part because of hearing stories about his father's service. He enjoyed the experience so much, he wants to re-enlist.
"The last tour was my favorite. I definitely made a lot of friends," he said. "I have a year to decide, but I have a chance to re-enlist."
The 23-year-old wasted little time joining the military, enlisting one year after graduating from Prairie Ridge High School in 2008.
His father said he supported the decision and would do so again if his son decided to re-enlist, even if it brings back the stress of the unknown.
"There's just no saying how proud I am of him," John Theiss said. "It has been amazing to see all the support [Saturday]. It's very emotional for me."
The homecoming event was coordinated by Warriors’ Watch Riders, a troop support group that frequently provides motorcycle escorts or surprises to veterans who return home.