Homecoming for 1/118 in Effingham County - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

05/13/06

Homecoming for 1/118 in Effingham County

SSG Leonard Anthony beams as he gets a welcome home hug from his son. SSG Leonard Anthony beams as he gets a welcome home hug from his son.
People lined the streets to wave to the 1/118th National Guard unit on their return. People lined the streets to wave to the 1/118th National Guard unit on their return.

Over the last few months, thousands of soldiers have come home to a hero's welcome in the Coastal Empire and Low Country; however, coming home was especially meaningful for some local troops. On Saturday, the 1/118 Field Operations Battalion out of Springfield weren't only greeted by their families and friends. They were met by two entire towns.

Riding down the streets of Rincon and Springfield, you saw it: pride. Pride in their city and pride in the American soldiers who fought for our country in Iraq, who are now back in their home town.

"(We're) out here to support our troops and show them we supported them from the beginning to the end," explained Nathan McDonald from Rincon.

People lined the streets waiting for buses carrying the Alpha Battery to pass by. Signs of support were everywhere, proof that their faith won out, and their soldiers are home... safely. Beverly Smith brought her grandson just so they could wave flags together and say thanks.

"What a blessing it is to have a free country," she said. "This morning is in honor of them, for giving us those freedoms. We are blessed, truly blessed."

Finally, the waiting was over. As the buses passed by, the cheers only grew louder. The moment only lasted a few seconds, but the emotions of this day will stick with people like Holli Long for much, much longer.

"It is just great to have them home," she sobbed.

For the soldiers, it was off to the National Guard Armory where their families were waiting. First, their commander offered a handshake and his thanks for a job well done. Then husbands and wives, mothers and children, friends all get their chance to be together with the ones they love.

"So long as you know your family is fine and home," said Staff Sergeant Leonard Anthony, "you can go on with the mission."

"It gets you through knowing you are coming home to something great," added Specialist David Whitfield.

These people are now the picture of happiness. Knowing they can walk hand in hand with those they care about most. It's a priceless moment that no one, including Staff Sergeant Leonard Anthony's son, hugging his newly-home father, wants to let go of anytime soon.

The men and women of Alpha Battery will get to spend a lot of time with their families. They're not scheduled to be eligible for a return to Iraq for another 18 months.

Reported by: Andrew Davis, andrewdavis@wtoc.com

 

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