After spending the past two months training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, National Guard Troops from Beaufort are back for their 10 day leave and they have the community to thank for it.
The excitement was contagious as the troops rolled into Beaufort. A homecoming, these soldiers and their families have been waiting for since they left in February for a two month training exercise in Mississippi, in preparation for a year long deployment to Afghanistan.
"Oh my goodness it feels so good," said National Guard Soldier, Felicia Albert. "I've been waiting for this for a long time."
This homecoming is one, many like Dennis Erickson will never forget. It's the first time he got to wrap his arms around his daughter, Ruby. But this reunion wouldn't have been possible without the community's support in raising the money to bring the troops home for their 10 day leave before deploying. "That was a great feeling because we were kind of worried at first about trying to get home and how much it was going to cost," said Felicia Albert.
The family readiness group, along with the community raised thousands of dollars to rent a bus, pick the troops up in Mississippi, bring them back home and then take them back. Their efforts did not go unnoticed as soldiers showed their thanks during a special ceremony at today's homecoming.
"It's a sacrifice they have to do to go over there for 12-18 months and it's great to know the community is involved as much as we are," said the Troop's Commander, Brian Jezewski.
"It was worth it, everyone came together for a reason and it was worth it," said the Commander's wife, Pam Jezewski. "It was one of the best feelings in the world to know that so many people cared so much about you," said Felicia Albert.
" I feel extremely grateful that everyone has come together and worked hard for us, it's nice," said National Guard Soldier, Dennis Erikson.
With just 10 days at home, Dennis Erikson is planning to treasure every moment he has with his family and their new addition." Hang out, relax, and spend some family quality time," said Erikson.
"It was worth waiting, at least he can see here for a few days before he's gone," said Brook Erikson.
But one couple has some unique plans. " We're getting married Thursday," said National Guard Soldier, Benjamin Heape.
Now after their leave, the troops will be heading back to Camp Shelby to finish up their training, before deploying to Afghanistan for at least a year.