John Thompson is a captain with the Army's 357th corps support unit out of Athens, Georgia. In February, his reserve unit was called to action, within days providing support for troops in southern Iraq.
Since then his wife, Kathy, and three children have been staying with family members in East Texas. They've also been counting the days until his homecoming.
When Kathy Thompson heard the news, she didn't want to believe it.
"At first you think maybe it won't happen, maybe they'll change their minds and he'll get to stay home."
Her husband had been in the Army Reserves for 15 years, but it would be the first time he would be called to active duty.
"The week before he left, when I knew it was really going to happen, I just thought I can't do this by myself I need to go home and he was fully in support of that."
As John headed to Iraq, Kathy and the couple's three young children headed to East Texas. Family members here, helping to fill the void.
"We talk about it all the time, they miss their dad but we try to keep them busy and it hasn't been so bad for them because he writes letters and they've been talking through email," said Kathy's mom, Patsy Jeffcoat.
Kathy's mom is one of more than a dozen family members living in the area. Armed with American flags, and signs, most of them showed up at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport Saturday to help welcome John.
After all the hugs and even a few tears... John talked about his homecoming.
"It's great to be back home, great to be in Texas, great to be with the family, it's just exciting."
While John is happy to be with family, he says he understands his duty in Iraq.
"It's hot and it's lonely and the days get long on you but the positive side is you get to help people and you get to interact with them and do some positive things."
Surrounded by family, this soldier couldn't help but think of a final homecoming.
"We're already looking to see who is gonna replace us and when we're gonna get to come home.. It's a little early for that but we get excited."
John will head back to Iraq in two weeks. He'll be there for another seven months. The family is planning to sell their home in Georgia. They're also hoping to move the family to East Texas.