Family, friends welcome home members of 3rd ID - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Members of 3rd ID return home

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

 

After a year's deployment in Southern Afghanistan, soldiers arrived in Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport and Fort Stewart to greet and hug their families and friends Monday night. 

For some, returning home meant embracing their children for the first time. For many, tears of reassurance streamed down their faces as they welcomed home loved ones who sacrificed 12 months of their lives to defend this country. 

Among those elated faces was SPC Aaron Best, who said time away from family and friends can be tolling, no matter how much experience you have overseas.

"I don't think it ever gets any easier... being away from family and friends." Best said. 

He said seeing his family is like reaching the finish line. "That's when you know it's over, when you can see your family."

 "One thing I can't wait to do is sleep, sleep, sleep," Best joked. 
 
But with excitement surging through the air, it's difficult to believe any of these soldiers and their families could sleep Monday night.

Many were grateful to be back home. Many were thankful to come home alive.

SPC Dane Degrace was nearly killed in an attack during the deployment.

"On May 14 of this year I was dismounted on a patrol when an improvised explosive device went off behind me," Degrace said.
 
Though only arriving home Monday night, he is scheduled to return to Walter Reed Hospital Wednesday to work on his recovery. 

Both of his parents, who greeted him with smiles in a Fort Stewart gymnasium Monday night, will accompany him to Walter Reed. 

Even though the relief and joy of seeing their families was nearly uncontainable, soldiers took to the time to pay their respects to those who did not return home.

"It's been a long year in Afghanistan defending our country's freedom, and I would just like to say to everyone who supported our soldiers, thank you. And please don't forget those who paid the ultimate sacrifice," Command Sergeant Major Edd Watson said. 

After so many months of being separated from those they love, these soldiers can now rest a little easier, knowing they are home, they are safe, and they were missed.

 

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