Thousands of National Guardsmen answer the call and serve our country in Iraq and around the world. Many have returned home, including a unit from Shaw Air Force Base. We found the Beaufort community gearing up to give them a welcome home they'll never forget.
They packed their bags and put on their uniforms back in January of 2003. Now, nearly two years later, the 120 Beaufort Guardsmen are back to their normal lives.
For SSgt Gerald Winn, that means back to work at his computer. "It feels good, really. It was a happy kind of sad. We're glad to be back but we made friends in Sumpter."
Although performing security at Shaw Air Force Base was a big change from the usual one weekend a month, SSgt. Winn says he was proud to do his part. "I wouldn't have traded this two years. It's been real rewarding, gave you an opportunity to grow."
In fact, SSgt. Winn says serving his country was something he'd always dreamed about doing. "All my life I've wanted to be a soldier. It's just the way I am. I've wanted to do it. I felt like the Guard would be a good thing to do, that was 32 years ago."
Now, the Beaufort community is giving these heroes a proper homecoming this weekend.
"I think they certainly deserve a homecoming," Gen. Jim Shufelt of the Military Enhancement Committee said. "It's not going to be a lot of speeches, it's just a chance for people in Beaufort to stop in and say hello to these troopers and their families and say thanks for the job they've done."
Although most of the Guardsmen have been back home for a month now, there are about 20 who volunteered to deploy another six months.
The Beaufort Military Enhancement Committee, the county council, and the City of Beaufort will be holding the big homecoming tomorrow at the Beaufort Readiness Center next to Marine Corps Air Station at 3pm.