There were tears of joy and love for the members of Company G, 185th Aviation Unit late Friday, as eighty soldiers returned home after a year of serving their country in Iraq.
"I'm just so glad to be home and this is a beautiful welcome," said SFC Arthur Brown.
"Fantastic, outstanding, all of those good words," echoed SGT Arthur Butler.
Over 100 guardsmen with Company G were mobilized in January of 2003.
"I missed my family, son, everybody and food real food," said SGT Kimberly Portis with a smile.
"When we took off in Kuwait coming back we knew we were on our way," said SSGT Sam McKee.
The unit's mission while overseas was to move troops and cargo, and conduct heavy lift for combat equipment and damaged aircraft recovery.
The pilots fly the Chinook helicopter, the primary heavy lift aircraft for the U.S. Army.
"They did so much for America and saved a lot of lives. I'm so proud of them and I know Meridian is and the state of Mississippi," said Maj. Gen. Harold Cross, adjutant general for the state of Mississippi.
"These people are the best of the best," said unit commander, MAJ David Morris. "These guys worked together. It's nothing that I did. We did it as a team."
Family members said the homecoming brought a long awaited sigh of relief.
"I'm so happy to have my baby home," said Lorene Portis. "She's the only girl."
"I'm grateful he is home. It has been a long journey," said Pam Butler, whose husband is a member of the 185th.
The remaining 22 soldiers of Company G are scheduled to return on March 1.