VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Task Force 2 received a heartfelt homecoming after spending almost two weeks in Southwest Florida helping with search and rescue efforts following Hurricane Ian.

Task Force 2 deployed ahead of Hurricane Ian’s landfall as a Category 4 storm and conducted countless search and rescues in the Fort Myers area.

For many of the Task Force members, it’s a sacrifice of not just their time, but their family’s time. It’s a sacrifice the Wilson family is no stranger to.

“We’ve had experience with what this is like. You don’t get used to it, but you get through it,” said Heather Wilson.

For Heather and her family, this is her husband Demitri’s second deployment with Task Force 2. He went to the Surfside Condo Collapse in Florida last year as well. She said it was hard getting in touch with him while he was on the ground in Florida for the last 11 days.

“They didn’t have cell connection the whole time,” said Heather. “So mostly, quick texts when he could or a quick phone call to just let me know, and then I would spread the news throughout the family to let them know he was okay.”

Demitri Wilson is a Battalion Chief for Suffolk Fire and Rescue. He says search and rescue wasn’t their only task while they were there.

“It’s such a humbling and devastating loss for so many. So anything that we could provide just to give them some semblance of hope is what we tried to give,” said Demitri.

Members of Task Force 2 aren’t the only ones making sacrifices as they leave home to help others.

“Obviously, we’re sacrificing but they’re sacrificing also. The families are,” he said. “They’re making a huge sacrifice to allow us to be in this position to help others. But they understand and they wish us well moving out the door.”

Like the dozens of others at the Virginia Beach Fire Training Center Monday evening, Demitri’s daughter Ryleigh welcomed her dad back with a sign in her hand for one reason.  

“So my dad would notice me,” she said.

As the trucks pulled in Monday evening, Demitri said it’s always a humbling experience to see friends, family and colleagues welcoming them back.

“We don’t expect it and don’t want it. But we understand how important it is and it truly brings everything full circle.”

Ryleigh told me she wants her dad to take her to Busch Gardens now that he’s back.

You can donate here to help those impacted by Hurricane Ian.