They are finally home. Soldiers with the 201st Engineering Battalion are now on Kentucky soil and in the arms of their loved ones after a year long deployment to Afghanistan.
More than 400 Kentucky families will sleep well knowing their soldiers are safe. There was not a dry eye in sight when the busses of soldier arrived at the Boyd County Middle School. Hundreds of loved ones waited for hours to greet their soldiers, many say the wait was too long.
Marybeth Skeens waited for her husband, "Just to have the family time back. It's been rough playing both mother and father while he's away."
Governor Steve Beshear says, "This is one of the most exciting days that anybody can have, when we bring our men and women home who have served so bravely and so gallantly across the waters."
Some say their soldiers' help will be welcome at home. Sheila Colwell says, "We have two teenagers, teenagers. and if he goes again, he's taking them with him!"
After a quick visit with their families, the soldiers gathered for a welcome home ceremony to honor their work overseas. Governor Beshear says, "They have been in harm's way and they have really defined what that term means. They have served under the most dangerous circumstances. I think we have over 40 purple heart winners in this battalion."
Brenda Colwell says, "I think it's important, but I just wish they could do something to bring them all home."
The 201st Engineering Battalion's main mission in Afghanistan was clearing and constructing routes, and keeping supply routes open. But now, these soldiers have other things to think about.
Skeens says, "Thank him and everybody else for all they've done for our country."
The battalion lost one Kentuckian overseas, Sgt. Daniel Wallace of Grant County. The governor says Wallace and every other soldier that did return are in the thoughts and prayers of all Kentuckians.
Wednesday night families prepared for their return.
Specialist Bobby Napier will come home to Christmas at his home in Vicco. Napier's wife, Norma, says she wants to give her husband the things he missed during his deployment. She says, "That's probably been the hardest, trying to do it on our own, by ourself. And try to not let them see us cry and not let them know that it's bothering us and try to stay strong for them."
Streets in Vicco are lined with yellow ribbons and signs for Napier and Specialist Kirby Brown. Brown's mother, Vanessa, says this day could not come fast enough. She says, "Words can't describe it, it's unreal, you'll finely be able to take a deep breath. I just want to hug him and see his face, just feel his face and know that he's really here."
Brown's daughter, Kayleigh, is ready to see her father, and Napier's daughter says it was a long wait. Nine year old Shanda Napier says, "I'm really proud of him for being over there and just for being safe."
"It's important, I realize that, but it's hard when it's yours that's the one over there doing it," says Brown.
"People come up and ask about him and I'll tell them where he's at and what he's been doing, and just the gratitude that people show. We've had a lot of support," says Norma Napier.
Both families hope this is the last deployment for these troops, but say they will support them no matter what happens.