More than 100 Gulfport Seabees were back home Sunday night after spending the past six months in Iraq.
Members of NMCB-1 stepped off a plane into the waiting arms of friends and loved ones.
Their construction mission in Iraq will help build the country's new democracy.
Since Laura Cherry's son left to serve in Iraq, phone calls and letters have been their only link.
On July 4th, Derek wrote her a poem about the true price of freedom.
"He also mentioned in there that he hopes that one day Iraq and other countries will be free of the terrorists because of the children because of what the children had to endure," said Cherry.
Overdue hugs and kisses and the comfort of answered prayers made for a happy homecoming for members of NMCB-1.
Seabees said the relief of returning home was mixed with pride for a mission well done.
Among their many projects, the Seabees helped restore electricity to the Iraqi people and built camps for Iraqi security forces.
"It was interesting," said Todd Steveson, a Seabee. "We built a lot of sea huts for them so they'd have a place to live and sleep and what not. I actually felt pretty good. It felt good to help out there new government system."
Ariel and Skylar Smith have grown a lot since their mommy left six months ago.
Ginger Dunnan-Smith believes the time she spent away from the toddlers will make a difference in getting the Iraqis ready to handle their own national security.
"We built a lot of the facilities that the Iraqi security forces will be taking over," she said. "It's establishing for them new places for their democracy and for their country to start taking over so the Seabees have been part of that."
As much as she missed her son, Laura Cherry says she understands why he had to go.
"He wanted to go for this freedom but I'm just glad to have him back on free soil," said Cherry.
Military officials say another group of Seabees from NMCB-1 is due to arrive home later this month from Iraq.