The 2101 Transportation Company of Butler, Aliceville and Camden, Ala., returned home Tuesday to be met by smiles and hugs.
"Family is everything. That's where it all begins. Kids, grandkids, my wife," said SFC Bill Bledsoe.
"I couldn't wait to get back to see my kids. That was my greatest concern, being with my kids," said Spec. Cynthia Pritchett.
The 2101 was deployed in June 2004 and spent over a year in Iraq, primarily hauling fuel. It also provided security for convoys. Both are dangerous jobs.
"From day to day, you never know exactly what to expect out on the road. Just had to be prepared for anything that might come up," said Lt. Eric Pouncy.
One member of the unit did not make it safely back. SSGT John McGee died May 2 when an IED hit his vehicle as it returned to camp. McGee is survived by his mother and three children.
"I can't go through the day today with seeing the other guys come in, that I don't remember John," said Renee Bledsoe, whose husband serves in the 2101.
The dedication of National Guard soldiers is evident. SGT Ned McClendon has seen action in two wars. Bledsoe has been in three. When service is not required, why would anyone continue making the sacrifice?
"It was an honor to serve my country, but I'm glad that it's over with and I'm back home with my family, but if I had to go again, I'd just have to do it again since it's part of being a soldier," Pritchett said.
"War is always a unique experience and it changes you. Everyone that went over there and spent that year, they're changed in some form or the other," said Pouncy.
Pouncy said it brings to light what is really important.