RIPLEY, TN (abc24.com) - Nearly 200 Tennessee soldiers are back home with their families. The 268th Military Police Company of West Tennessee arrived at the Ripley National Guard Armory Thursday afternoon after serving almost a year in Kuwait. These military men and women haven't seen their loved ones since last September and many of them are seeing their newborns for the first time.
Families and loved ones had a hard time holding back tears of excitement. They said seeing them come back home safely is more emotional than when they first watched them leave last year.
Dozens of Ripley and Dyer County fire trucks, police cars, and sheriff deputies honked their horns to welcome home two bus loads of military men and women. All of them were anxious to see their families.
"We've been waiting forever for him to come home,” said military mom Sherri Onorati.
"I'm very excited to spend time with my new daughter and I'm very excited to be back home,” said national guardsman Taurean James.
Words couldn't describe how these military families felt on this day. The deployment was especially hard for several dads. Matthew Randall and Taurean James held their newborns for the first time.
"I can't even explain it. It's the best feeling I've ever had,” said National guardsman Matthew Randall as he fought back his tears. “I just want to hold her, you know. I missed her so much."
"It feels good. I only got to see her couple of days after she was born and then I had to go back,” said James.
Members of the 268th Military Police Company were in Kuwait providing security for American bases for 9 months. This was the first overseas tour this company has had in more than 2 decades. Hundreds of people from all over came out to show support, making this reunion even more memorable.
"It's nice to have family, friends, and veterans out here to support us. We did a mission and we did a very good job so I enjoyed it. It was nice,” James told abc24 news.
"It means a lot. A lot of the times it feels like we're forgotten and to have everybody out here supporting us, it really means a lot to us,” said military wife Marie Randall.
"It's very important even if my husband wasn't in the military I would still go and support them because it's nice to know that we have somebody defending our country,” said another military wife, Jessica James.
Nine soldiers were injured overseas but are doing okay and recovering at Camp Shelby in Mississippi. The 268th MP Company is the oldest military company in the state of Tennessee. Its first deployment was during World War One.