Sergeant James Reeves came back from Iraq with a heart as heavy as one of the chairs he set up in the 890th Engineering Battalion armory. After 14 long months, he was home. And the 890th was home. But at the time, Specialist Carl Sampson was still in a military hospital.
"We deployed with all of our personnel here," the sergeant said. "Tomorrow will be the end or the final chapter I guess. We get Carl home."
Carl Sampson returns to the unit he last saw September 12. That's the day he earned a purple heart -- the day a bomb blast in Iraq nearly killed him.
His brother is Clint Sampson.
"It's affected his memory," the younger Sampson said. "And he has lost a lot of short term memory. But his long term memory, he still has a good understanding of."
Clint Sampson helped decorate the armory for Saturday's celebration.
"What we're wanting to do is as a family honor the 890th," he said. "Thank them for bringing my brother home. That's what's important to us."
Sampson's welcome home includes a six mile parade through Picayune, a reunion with his battalion, and plenty of nonmilitary rations. Conshae McCrory volunteered for KP duty.
"Anything I can do to help," the wife of an 890th soldier said. "He deserves it."
Sgt. James Reeves said Sampson's return gives everybody a chance to close a chapter in their military lives.
"We're going to get our last soldier home. And that's very important to us," he said.
The hope at the 890th armory and in Picayune is that patriotism, love, and prayer will heal some of the emotional scars that Carl Sampson reluctantly brought home from Iraq.
The physical scars may never go away. The September 12th explosion blew through 15 percent of Carl Sampson's brain. He lost his right eye, and some of his motor skills. But thanks to four brain surgeries and rehab, Sampson is not only alive, he's walking and he's talking -- though he probably won't do either at Saaturday's celebration.