Hundreds of soldiers return to East Texas

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Sara Story - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - It was a Texas size welcome as more than a hundred soldiers reunited with their families in Tyler Saturday. This Texas National Guard group was deployed exactly a year ago and has spent the past 12 months in Afghanistan. They're one of the largest groups ever to leave East Texas.

The buses pulled up, and hundreds of soldiers poured out. They were welcomed with warm embraces. "It's good to have somebody waiting for you when you get off the bus. To see your family member waiting there waving," said Jamie Sells, a member of The National Guard.

The Grays were one of the families reunited. "I just really can't explain it. It's wonderful," said Heather Gray, a member of The National Guard.

"She's all the way, 100% daddy's girl," said her dad, Don Gray. He waited for hours to greet his little girl . A short time compared to the year she was over seas. "I worried a lot, slept little," said gray.

124 men and women returned with the 136 MP Battalion. This group is comprised of soldiers from across the state.

Sergeant Louis smith with The Texas National Guard said, "We've got elements from Baytown, from San Antonio, El Paso that have all volunteered to come jump on that bandwagon and go overseas."

Some traveled hundreds of miles to welcome their soldier. "I am from Florida, and I am here to welcome my grand daughter back home," said Patty Bough. Others, didn't have to go too far, and everyone waited anxiously. Five-year old Caleb Mauer said, "I haven't seen [my dad] in a long long long long long long time."

The soldiers say they're looking forward to what they've missed for a year. "My bed and my house and some home-cooked meals from my mom and my grandma," said Sells.  They're ready to get back to life with their friends and family.

Saturday's welcome home ceremony was for friends and family only. There will be a public event on Monday at Rose Stadium in Tyler. The ceremony will begin at 10 am.

Copyright 2010 KLTV. All rights reserved.