JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – The 1039th Engineer Company of the Arkansas Army National Guard's 875th Engineer Battalion is back home in Region 8.
The group flew into Memphis Wednesday afternoon, and with a police escort, made its way through Tyronza, Marked Tree, Trumann, Bay, and into Jonesboro.
Students from the Marked Tree and East Poinsett County school districts and supporters from Three Rivers Nursing Center cheered and waved signs and flags along U.S. Highway 63 as the buses rolled into Jonesboro.
Marked Tree Middle School eighth grader Ranique Daniel did not have a relative or friend coming back to Region 8, but she still wanted to show her gratitude. "It's nice for them to go over there and risk their lives for us," she said.
The group arrived at the new Armed Force Reserve Center in Jonesboro around 1:45 p.m.
"This is my third tour and my family has supported me so much through all three of them. I couldn't have done it without them," said Lepanto resident Sgt. Gregory Rogers.
Rogers' fiance Stephanie Pritchett said the support for troops needs to continue at home. "Everybody just needs to be patient with their loved ones and be there for them and listen to them when they got to say something."
Sgt. James Duboise from Trumann, who served in Iraq before the tour in Afghanistan, got to meet his three-month-old granddaughter for the first time.
"It's been almost a year and it's been a long year, but I feel that it has strengthened me and my wife's relationship and my family's relationship," he said. "I been to Iraq before in 2006 and 2007 and Afghanistan now. It's a good feeling to be home."
The soldiers left June 30, 2012, for Ft. Bliss, Texas where they trained for two months and then headed overseas to Afghanistan.
The soldiers spent approximately nine months in Afghanistan clearing the roadways of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in order to clear safe passage for others.
The unit mobilized as part of the 875th Engineer Battalion from May 2006 through September 2007, charged with a similar mission during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
During that deployment, the Jonesboro based battalion's 400 soldiers cleared 1,244 IEDs and saved countless lives in the process.
The mobilization of the 1039th was the third deployment of one of the 875th's subordinate units since that initial deployment of the entire battalion.
"I just want to thank everybody in my hometown, in Jonesboro and Region 8 for supporting us for being there for us and I want to thank everybody for the care packages. We got a lot of care packages," said Sgt. Duboise. "The support means a lot. That keeps us going, and I just want to thank everybody in America for supporting us. We do what we do for y'all."