Joyous return for Missouri National Guard Unit

Family members of soldiers belonging to the 70th Mobile Public Affairs detachment embrace each other at a return ceremony on Jefferson City Tuesday.

Eight members of the 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment returned to the welcoming arms of their families Tuesday after a nine month deployment in southern Afghanistan.

The eight men and women are part of a 20 soldier unit whose job it is to tell the stories of soldiers and help coordinate media access in Afghanistan. Many of the soldiers are either broadcasters or journalists in civilian life.

"The experience is worth it, definitely" said Corporal Mariah Best. "The knowledge that I gained, the people who I met, the bonds that grew stronger with people in the unit. It was all worth it."

Best said the work was challenging, but worth it. "Being away from home, working long hours. Being away from family obviously, but just being able to keep up with the high up-tempo... we had to work a minimum of 12 hours each day," Best said.

Despite the long hours, soldiers of the unit said getting to go to Afghanistan and work there is an opportunity few people get.

Other soldiers said telling the story of the war in a way that is meaningful to society is why they signed up.

"Being in public affairs, telling a soldier's story, I think we all understand how important it is to the families back here as well as the public," said Sergeant Anthony Lee. "Just telling the story of the coalition forces as well as the Afghan forces and showing that the Afghans are in the lead."

Members of the unit will go through the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program with their families in order to re-enter civilian life. The program allows members of the unit to go through reintegration together.

The eight soldiers will return to normal National Guard duty, until they are called upon again.

Their stories and experiences will be available on the Missouri National Guard website.

Sara Smith said she is proud of the work her brother did in Afghanistan and happy to have him home.