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Daddy’s Home

Friday we left home and traveled east across the state to Jonesboro. Our son’s unit, the 875th Engineer Battalion of the Arkansas National Guard was going to arrive sometime Saturday and we wanted to be prepared for the Welcome Home. As we drove into the pretty city of Jonesboro, home of Arkansas State University, we saw Welcome Home banners everywhere. Every place of business had the signs displayed on their buildings. It really was exhilerating to see so many people out and about getting ready for the return of the 875th.

Our family was so excited. We spent the evening together, making welcome home signs and talking about our excitement. We stayed in the same hotel that we stayed in last year to farewell our son. Something about it this time seemed so much more hopeful. I wasn’t even annoyed with the slow elevator.

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When Charlotte does anything it always has her special unique and whimsical touch. She decided to make a Curious George Welcome Home sign because she had one of the bandaids on her finger and it’s one of my grandson’s favorite movies.

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My daughter-in-law’s Mom and sisters came up from Louisiana to welcome Drew home.

The 875th had spent their last six days in Camp McCoy, Wisconsin for their demobilization. They flew from Wisconsin Saturday morning in three planes landing in Memphis. One group of the unit returned to Paragould, Arkansas and the other two groups returned to Jonesboro at the Guard Armory which is just across the street from Arkansas State University. Our son called us at the hotel to tell us that he was in the last group in Memphis to return and so we settled in to wait. He called us five minutes later to tell us they were leaving right then. So we excitedly got in the cars to take the trip through town for the 875th’s welcome home. Crowds of people lined the streets. We were wearing the yellow Welcome Home 875th tee shirts we had purchased from the family support group.

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There was a big whoop and many cheers when we heard the sirens of the police cars and the fire trucks coming closer. Many of the deployed soldiers from the 875th are police officers, and firemen. One officer is the local district attorney. (he plays a mean fiddle)

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My husband was so excited to see the three buses coming that he ran down the street and planted himself right by the entry road where the buses would turn in. He wanted to be the first to see our son.

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My grandson was getting tired of waiting for the buses to arrive. For the last year, because he was so young, he believed that his Daddy had gone on a hunt for toys for him. He would receive a toy from his Daddy every week in the mail. One day a couple of months ago, he told his Mom that he had enough toys, he just wanted his Daddy. Some day I am sure he will learn the truth and be very proud of his father.

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My daughter-in-law’s mother saw Drew on the second bus. We all rushed toward it.

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There he was, looking like General MacArthur.

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The hug that lasted a month.

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The son didn’t let his father out of his sight.

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While Drew went to get his gear my grandson decided to plant his flag. No, it wasn’t a choreographed Clinton moment. It was spontaneous.

The rest of the joyous day our family spent together. We weren’t unique. The families and friends of the 875th were all thrilled to see their loved ones. There was a lot of love in the air in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

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We traveled home Sunday past unique Arkansas towns named Possom Grape and Toad Suck. In this changing season the landscape was full of yellow wild flowers. I imagined as we drove past the fields of yellow that the flowers were also celebrating our heroes’ return.

The soldiers of the 875th came home safe except for one. Sgt. Eric Smallwood was remembered in a Memorial Service/blood drive in Jonesboro this weekend. I pray that his sacrifice will not have been in vain and I believe it won’t be. My son reports that the surge is working and as always, the troops are proudly defending our country.

The 875th did a great job while they were in Iraq, locating 1244 IEDs.

“They cleared over 375,000 kilometers of roadway resulting in over 300,000 mission hours being completed to ensure the safety of just thousands of Iraqis and Coalition Forces.”

That’s a great record.

We are so thankful to have our son home safe.

My brother’s still over there but will be returning with his unit sometime in mid October. So, although I am greatly relieved, our family’s not out of the woods yet.

My cousin’s son is in Afghanistan. So the prayers are still going up until all of our sons and daughters return in victory.