WHITE OAK, TX (KLTV) - An East Texas group focused on making sure all military coming home feel the country's appreciation, received a sergeant first class in White Oak on Sunday.
"We don't have many welcomes from the Longview [area]," said founder and coordinator for Welcome Home Soldiers, Anne DeLaet. "We'd like to have as many as we can but the hardest thing about our job is finding out when they are coming in."
DeLaet and a handful of other greeters joined the family and friends of Sergeant Shunda Allen Taylor at a North Oak grocery store.
"We'll go to meet them wherever the family wants," said DeLaet. "It's always important to let these men and women know how much we appreciate their service to this country."
Taylor's mother, Stella Allen, said over a year has passed since she saw her daughter last.
"She's my only daughter and we're real close…I just miss her," said Allen. "I'm so excited about seeing her, my grand-babies but I don't know if they will remember me."
Taylor currently serves at Fort Knox in Kentucky, but Allen said Taylor's service in Kuwait and Iraq were the most difficult times.
"I was scared that something was going to happen to her," said Allen. "I prayed all the time."
Two lines of people waving flags and blasting noisemakers surprised Taylor as she arrived in White Oak for a family visit.
"I didn't feel like I deserved anything like this, I'm just doing my job," said Taylor. "But I really appreciate it, it was a great surprise."
Taylor's husband is also in the military and is currently in dental school. Taylor said the biggest challenge of military service is the time she has to be away from her young son and daughter.
"We have to be away from our family a lot," said Taylor. "Actually, I just got off of a mission where I had to be away from my kids for about four weeks for training."
DeLaet hopes more East Texas families will contact Welcome Home Soldiers when their military loved one comes into town.
"If any military person is coming into the Shreveport or Dallas [airports] we have often arranged for the welcome somewhere on the interstate" said DeLaet. "It's good enough to have your family welcome you, but to have total strangers come out to welcome you and to tell you thank you is a different thing."
Contact Welcome Home Soldiers by phone at 903-279-7301 or 903-707-2201 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.