Sgt. Christopher Todd Holz of Evans is finally home.
No one is more happy about that than his wife, Robin, who spent the last 10 months taking care of the couples' twins, Cameron and Morgan.
"If it weren't for Grandma, Grandpa, Great-Grandma and Aunt Lynn, I don't know what we would have done," she said.
Christopher Holz was one of more than 70 soldiers honored Sunday at the National Guard Armory in Thomson. More than 100 people gathered to celebrate the homecoming of National Guard Unit Battery B, 1/214th Field Artillery.
"It's better now because there was a lot of crying last time," said Spc. Kenneth Harris, comparing Sunday's celebration to last March's farewell ceremony for the same soldiers. "Now there is a lot of happiness."
Charlie Newton, chairman of the McDuffie County Board of Commissioners, said he was thankful that his own military service never took him away from his family for an extended amount of time. He also praised the soldiers for their service.
"Anyone who truly puts service above self is a hero, and that makes each and every one of you a hero," he said.
Sgt. 1st Class Johnny G. Hearst said he was proud of his soldiers and thankful they made it back to Thomson safely.
"Somehow God saw fit to weather the storm and bring us to this homecoming," he said.
The group of about 75 soldiers left Thomson in March for Fort Campbell, Ky. on March 20.
"When he left, I cried," said 6-year-old Brandon Franklin of his father, Staff Sgt. William Fortson.
While at Fort Campbell, the unit received training and supported Operation Enduring Freedom until June 20. Then the group was moved to Fort Bragg, N.C. where they were assigned homeland-security duty. There, they were honored for their work to keep the installation safe.
"In everything you did, you stood tall and made them proud," Thomson Mayor Bob Knox said.
Capt. Shane Strickland said the soldiers also made their families and community proud.
"I am truly proud to have served with each and every one of you," he said.
For Strickland, who lives in Comer, Ga., coming home is extra special.
His son, Michael Patrick, was born three months ago, and his wife, Wendy, said the couple was worried that Strickland wouldn't be there for the birth because the soldier was possibly headed overseas. Instead, they were stationed stateside.
For Louise Neal, having her son, Spc. Rodney Neal, home was the answer to prayers.
"It was rough at home," she said. "I prayed day and night. I praised the Lord he came home safe."
Rodney Neal said coming home was a boost for both the community and the soldiers.
"Our spirits have certainly been lifted a bit more," he said.
Nearby, Sgt. Tommy Steed held the hand of his daughter, 3-year-old Mya. For him, balancing family and service has been tough.
"I know they needed me at home," he said. "But I had to do my duty to my country."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.