Group of 48th Brigade Guardsmen Returns - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

03/20/06

Group of 48th Brigade Guardsmen Returns

One year ago, more than 4,000 members of the Georgia National Guard's 48th Brigade left for Iraq. Today, 100 of them came home at Fort Stewart, where waving flags and lots of happy tears greeted the Guardsmen and -women as they reunited with their loved ones.

One year can seem like such a long time. The families welcoming their troops home today know that all too well. Around 5:30am this morning, the wait was over. Waving flags and a roar of emotion welcomed the returning heroes.

The only thing keeping them apart was a brief ceremony in their honor. Minutes later, families rushed the field and moments a year in the making took over the grounds of Fort Stewart.

Staff Sgt. Felix Blas took his two boys in his arms, both a year older and bigger than when he left. "I'm just excited to be home to see my kids," he said. 

Flying home, Blas looked forward to three things--his wife and kids. But he got a surprise: 15 family members from Tampa and Puerto Rico, armed with hugs and kisses and posters and T-shirts with his face on them.

He couldn't ask for anything more. "Just to feel their love," he said. "That's it."

All around the grounds were tears and smiles. Sgt. Mark Hallingsworth, surrounded by his mom and three children, was too choked up to talk. His wife Kelly had his back. "It's happy time," she said. "This is great. Happy to see him home."

One hundred home, 4,000 more to go for the 48th Brigade.

"Hopefully we'll have them home soon, so they can meet their families also," said Blas. "Right now, just joyful to be back home."

The rest of the 48th Brigade is due back home by the end of May.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com

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