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TUPELO, MISS. (WCBI) – A 4th of July celebration came early this morning at the Tupelo Regional Airport.
More than 100 members of the 858th Engineer Company, based in Calhoun City, were greeted by scores of family and friends as they returned from almost a year of duty Afghanistan. WCBI’s Alyssa Martin was there to
greet the troops.

Families across the region have been looking forward to this day for weeks.

Weather delayed the arrival of the chartered Southwest flight for almost 5 hours. But that only added to the anticipation and excitement for the welcoming parties.

“I’m just so ecstatic to have him back in country,” said Brooke Watts, the wife of a member of the 858th.

”It means a lot to us, we get our family back together,” said Kristan Minor, the wife of a member of the 858th.

In Afghanistan, the 858th played a vital role in Operation Enduring Freedom, helping prepare numerous facilities for use by the Afghan Army. It was the
3rd overseas deployment for the engineer company since 2003.

“This is kind of a big event for me as a brigade commander. This is the first time since 2003 I’ve had all of my units across north Mississippi and South Mississippi not deployed. All of my units are back at home now since
2003 and this is the last unit to come home, ” said Col. Joe Hargett, the engineer brigade commander.

Around 3 in the morning, the flight landed safely.

“This means the world to me. God has allowed my baby to come home safely after her journey in Afghanistan and I feel like I am truly, truly blessed to have her back on American soil, ” said Joyce Agnew, the mother of a 858th member.

Every family had a story to tell, a memory to share…sweet reunions of every kind.

“I’ve got a picture of an ultra sound I carried in my hat the entire time and its just been a long, long three months of him being here and i’ll tell you what, its just an awesome feeling to have my family back together, ” said Robert Watts, member of the 858th.

“Come home, little boy, he was about three weeks old when we left now he’s walking, babbling words back and fourth, ” said Cameron Minor, member of the 858th.

Now that they are back home, the soldiers will take a few
weeks off as they transition back into civilian life, knowing they played a vital role in spreading democracy and peace.

The soldiers were discharged after leaving the plane. Some families went to their homes while others joined the soldiers for a greeting party on the Square at 5 a.m. in downtown Calhoun City.

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