Sea of Yellow Shirted Smiles, Tears as 875th Returns to Region 8

September 29, 2007 - Posted at 4:22 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- A lot of tears of joy and tight hugs being shared today in Region 8.  Families, friends and strangers lined the roadways to welcome back the men and women of the 875th.

It was a moment almost hard to embrace as the soldiers returned to Jonesboro on a caravan of chartered busses, headed for the Arkansas State University Armory.

Jonesboro's Caraway Road was a tailgate of yellow fans Saturday afternoon, waiting on a victory celebration to happen.

"We're here to watch the troops to come in, we're proud of all the hard work they've put in for us, so even though we don't have anyone from our family returning in this group, we are excited for them to be coming home," said Dashea Dooley as she sat waiting for the troops to return.

"We get to see all the troops that have been working for us and everybody else and it's just an opportunity to see it," said 11-year-old Natalie Dooley.

As the anticipation grew for the return of the 875 th , last minute touches put the detail in Region 8's biggest welcome.

"I'm going to give him a very big hug, run and give him a hug and welcome him home!" smiled soldier mom Paula Gragg. Parents Marcus and Paula Gragg were just part of a sea of flags, banners and yellow shirted smiles that welcomed the troops as they finally rolled into town.

"Just knowing that he's back in the states safe and not in harm's way," said Paula Gragg, "He's enjoyed doing what he's doing and thinks it's a good cause but we want him home safe."

And even though not everyone on this route has a specific soldier to cheer's no reason not to feel patriotic.

"By what they have done for us and what we need to do for them and just to show respect for them," said Natalie Dooley.

"I don't think most people are getting the chance to come and see what they should be seeing at such a young age," said Dashea Dooley, "I think bringing her out here and letting her see it will give her more appreciation."

And for at least one Region 8 soldier's family...appreciation comes from above.

"The good Lord has taken care of them while they have been over there," said Paula Gragg.

"You never stop praying for your children every day," agreed Marcus Gragg, Sr., "It's just part of life, that you would pray for them anyway, but especially when they are in harm's way. You just pray the Lord to take care of them."

The Gragg family said as soon as they picked up their son Marcus, Jr. from the ASU Armory...they were taking him out to eat.  He said all he wanted was "something American" so they were all headed to a Chinese buffet.