Soldier's Christmas Eve Return Delayed

"I was out of town. My husband called and said, 'I've got some news. Are you sitting down?' I said, 'Yes, what is it?' And he said, 'Johnathan's coming home for Christmas.' I said, 'No way!'" Joan Roberson, Troup resident, said.

The good news came the week of Thanksgiving. Roberson's son Johnathan would return home from Iraq today. But now, she says, with all the U.S. soldiers trying to come home for the holidays, some of them are getting delayed. Johnathan will have to wait until Christmas day or the day after.

"Knowing that he's coming in is, that's just a Christmas gift in itself. I just can't unwrap it right now," Roberson said.

Like the gifts under Joan's patriotic tree that show how proud she is of her son, 24-year-old Johnathan Hughes, who is a sergeant with the army's 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Hood. Now stationed in Tikrit, Hughes was one of the soldiers who stood guard, one mile away from the hole where Saddam Hussein was captured. Johnathan's family hasn't seen him since March, when he was deployed to fight in the war. When he comes back, his mother says, she'll let him be the boss.

"Whatever he wants to do, that's what we'll do," Roberson said.

Joan can already imagine the moment when Johnathan comes home.

"After I get done crying and hugging on him and making sure he's really here, we've got a lot of friends and family, of course, that want to see him," Roberson said. "We're just rockin' ready for that boy to get home."

Joan's laughter is her way of staying positive until she can celebrate the holidays with every member of the family.

Roberson says Johnathan will stay until Jan. 9, when he will return to Tikrit. She says he expects to come home again in March or April.

Julie Tam, reporting.