Soldier Talks Of New Appreciation For Family & Friends

A Gulfport soldier who spent the holiday with his family is asking you to pray for the thousands of military troops who can't. Army National guardsman Sergeant Thomas Irby is home on leave from Iraq. Irby is a member of the 890th Engineering Battalion Headquarters Company.

Family and friends have always meant a lot to Sgt. Thomas Irby, but he never realized how much until he had to leave them behind and head to Iraq.

"Our troops are over there fighting and it's tough over there," said Irby. "So you just sort of learn to appreciate what you have when you're put in that type of situation."

Irby, a 42 year-old father of two, went to the Middle East in February. Before coming home on leave, Irby's wife says he made a special request.

"He called from Iraq saying he just wanted everybody there, family, friends," said Judy Irby.

As Irby surrounded himself with cousins, nephews, and parents, the family couldn't help but think of those who couldn't enjoy the same experience this Thanksgiving.

"The troops that are over there I am so proud of them," said Judy Irby. "They have done a wonderful job and I know that there's a lot of them over there having Thanksgiving away from their families and we just pray for their safe return and I just feel very blessed. Couldn't ask for a better Thanksgiving."

"Just appreciate everything that we have and be thankful for what we have," said Irby. "The people fighting for our freedom is the biggest thing that we tend to take for granted."

Irby admits spending such a wonderful holiday with family and friends will make it harder to return to Iraq but he'll go and wear the uniform proudly so that those who can't be home for the holidays won't make the sacrifices in vain.

When not on active duty Sergeant Thomas Irby works at Camp Shelby as a tank mechanic. He will return to Iraq on Tuesday.