LONGVIEW,TX (KLTV) - He spent two decades protecting us at home and abroad, and today, an East Texas veteran is enjoying a celebration he's waited a career for. Corporal Matthew Southern of Hallsville has spent 19 years in the National Guard, including 2 tours in Iraq. With his family and "Welcome Home Soldier" members on hand, Southern returned home to East Texas Regional Airport to a roaring welcome he had never gotten before.
"I had no idea, no idea, this is great. This is great. I hear wonderful things about what they do for the returning soldiers and the families. It was surprising. It was very surprising, but to know it came from my hometown meant even more," Southern says.
He's a member of the famed Texas 36th.
"We were the first Texas National Guard to be deployed since World War II," he says.
Married for only two years, he'd been gone this time for a year.
"There's that time where you know he's supposed to be here, but until you actually see him, those fears don't go away. I've been waiting for this day for a long time," says Matthews wife , Debbie.
With the withdrawal, Southern sees the good that has been done in the 7 years in Iraq.
"You give them the freedom to voice their opinion and that is awesome," Matthew says.
A professional soldier, he says the personal sacrifices away from home and family have made him appreciate little things.
"It's the very small things that people do to make you know its all worth it, and just to come home and see all this its all worth it," he says.
Which is what made this homecoming sweet.
"Just to step off to this is wonderful," Southern says.
Southern remains true to his conviction of service to country, he has re-enlisted in the national guard for another 6 years.