GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Dozens of Mississippi Army National Guardsmen are doing something they haven't done in a long time: spending time with their families. Members of the 857th Horizontal Engineering Company returned after a nearly one year deployment to the Middle East.
Wiggins is a small town that prepared a big welcome for the 857th Engineers. People lined the streets holding signs and waving flags.
Clarence Harris of Byrum said, "The police escorted us all the way really from the airport in Gulfport and we came through the city of Wiggins and it was really good to see all the businesses come out and just clap their hands and wave flags in our honor."
"It's easier knowing people are actually thinking about you when you're gone," said Robert Tyler Smith of Wiggins.
The National Guardsmen were gone nearly 11 months to serve in Afghanistan.
"It was real tough as far as the emotional and the distance away from everybody, from your family, and your kids," said Thomas Vanbuskirk of Gulfport. "Especially the kids whenever you talk to them, it just breaks your heart whenever they tell you they miss you and they love you and they're ready for you to come home."
Since his brother left home, Clint Vance has been helping out his brother's wife and kids by making repairs at their house.
"What he was doing for us while he was gone. That's the least I could do for him," Vance said.
Scott Hoeflich met his new grandson. He has deployed before.
"It's different but it wasn't any easier. It's hard on your family being away from them and all, but somebody's got to do it. That's what we do."
And for what these soldiers do, the people of South Mississippi say thank you.
Picayune residents also lined the streets waving American flags to welcome come the members of the 857th Horizontal Engineering Company who are based there.