GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A chartered Boeing 767 carrying more than 200 very happy people, touched down at Gulfport's Air National Guard base Monday afternoon. Inside, were 228 members of the 168th Engineer Brigade from the Army National Guard. They had spent the last nine months in Afghanistan.
One by one, they stepped off the plane and were greeted by Adjutant General, Major General William Freeman. For most, it was the first time to touch home soil in nine months.
Sgt. First Class Susan Ouvre of Hattiesburg, was clutching her small American flag.
"I am thrilled to death to be home," a smiling Sgt. Ouvre said as fellow members of the 168th got off the airplane. "There is no place in the world like America."
That sentiment was echoed by every national guard member we spoke to on this glorious day.
While in Afghanistan, the 168th was doing things like road clearance, and survey work.
"They came under a lot of fire over there, yes sir, they were in harms way every day," General Freeman said.
Many of these men and women had been in Iraq a few years ago. But for specialist RJ Tanner of Lucedale, it was his first time to be in a war zone. It was an experience he will not forget.
"Our guys always took care of us," he said. "It is just a brotherhood that some people never understand."
No members of the 168th lost their lives in Afghanistan.
After leaving the Air National Guard base, the members of the 168th headed for Camp Shelby, where they will spend the next few days. Then, they head home.
Specialist Tanner said he can hardly wait to get back to Lucedale.
"I am just ready to get everybody back in my arms and let them know I am home safe."
Although most of the members are Mississippians, a few are from the states of California, Michigan and Wisconsin.