ABERDEEN - All of Northeast Mississippi's National Guard units have returned from Afghanistan now that members of Aberdeen's unit, the Forward Support Company 223rd Engineering Battalion, arrived home safely Saturday.
"We're back," said Capt. Joshua Ulrich to a crowd of anxiously waiting family and friends. "With the support of our friends and family and our city of Aberdeen, we made it through the hardships and endeavors. We deployed 88 soldiers and all of them are back stateside with their arms, their limbs and their wits. And also their personal pride of kicking the Taliban where the sun don't shine."
The soldiers offered support to Houston's 288th Sapper Company as they cleared roads of improvised explosive devices and debris. They were deployed Oct. 3, 2011.
"You offered stability, security and opportunity to a people who have never known or experienced this before," Ulrich said. "You saved the lives of night warriors and the people of the villages, valleys and district of Afghanistan and punched the Taliban square in the mouth. We fought the good fight, let's go home."
Once dismissed, Spc. Shamika Johnson ran to her three little boys, kneeling down and taking them all in her arms. They embraced her back as tears welled up in her eyes.
"It just feels good," she said through tears. "Now I'm just going to spoil them."
Sgt. Tony Pigeon saw his daughter's birth over Skype and was only able to meet and hold her on his 12 days of leave.
"It feels good to hold her," he said. "It feels good to see my entire family. I'm just going to spend time with them now."
Pigeon was greeted by his mother, wife, son and two daughters.
His wife, Bridget Pigeon, said it was difficult having him gone but the family is ready to spend time with him.
"He has a lot of firsts that he missed but we're saving our first step for daddy," she said.
Jaidyn Williams, 4, waited with his mom, Quinette, for his father, James, to return. He was wearing Army fatigues and boots like his dad.
"It's been hard and stressful, but by the grace of God we made it, and I'm just excited he's coming home," Quinette Williams said. "With Skype and the Magic Jack, it has made it easier on the kids to be able to see him, and we've been waiting for this moment since this time last year."
Sgt. Corey Jarrett had a giant smile on his face and he hugged his way through family and friends.
"Being home, there's nothing like it after being gone for like nine months with Ramp&R - there is no other feeling like it," he said. "First thing, I'm going to sleep. And then I'm going to take the family out to eat for whatever they want."
Jessie Dunbar was happy to have son Sgt. Laconia Spears home so she could stop worrying.
"Now he's home for good, and I'm too excited," Dunbar said. "Hallelujah, thank you, Jesus. I've been worried - anybody in the war zone, you worry about them. You know I'm always going to worry because I'm a mother, but I will have some relief now that he's home."
Spears' girlfriend, Sharon Packnett, agreed.
"Thank the Lord," she said. "It's been hard, and I'm just glad he's back."