ROANOKE, Va. -

One Roanoke family has a lot to be thankful for this Christmas and it's not because of the presents under the tree. It's because of the person walking through the door this holiday season.

Lieutenant Colonel Michael Scales made the decision more than 20 years ago to enlist in the Air Force. During his time serving our country, he's missed his fair share of holidays but he’s making it home this year.

Scales’ first deployed to Saudi Arabia. WDBJ 7’s cameras were there for the emotional homecoming at the Roanoke airport back in March 1991.

"When he first went in it was very nerving to me because he never spent the night away from home so I cried a lot but we got through it," said Scales’ mother, Arlene.

Scales is now stationed in Ohio. He’s been there for two years and considers himself lucky.

"It's always bitter sweet when I'm home because I'm always thinking about the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen that are not with their families," he said.

Scales said being stationed in Ohio has made it a little bit easier for him to get back to Roanoke for special occasions like Christmas.

"In this capacity it's a little easier for me to take off however there have been several Christmases and holidays I haven't been able to come home," he said.

Scales has had quite the career during his time in the Air Force. After graduating from Patrick Henry High School, he enlisted with the hopes of finding a way to pay for college, but after just a few years in, he knew he wanted to make a career of it.

"I just felt empowered to do more for my country so instead of serving to gain something out of it I turned it around and started because I really just enjoy to serving my nation."

Scales family couldn't be happier for him and all the places he’s traveled to during his time in the military.

"It's a wonderful experience because we're a close knit family so him being home just adds a touch to the holiday," said Arlene.

Not only is he home for a hot Christmas meal, but he's sharing his story in hopes of inspiring others to serve their country.

"At this point in my career it's more about giving back and paying it forward as we would say," he said.

Scales has successfully worked his way up the ranks during his career. He was just promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in December.

Scales leaves Roanoke Thursday to head back to Ohio. He said he is returning so his coworkers can take more time to be with their kids.