Families filled the National Guard hangar at the Jefferson City Memorial Airport Friday afternoon to welcome home nine soldiers returning from a nine month deployment in Afghanistan.
The soldiers were part of Detachment 40, Operational Support Airlift Command, Task Force Odin. Among those present at Friday's welcome back ceremony were Major Matthew Styles, First Sergeant Jason Walling, Captain Johnathan Vilbert, CW5 Robert Murrell, CW4 Robert Stacy, CW2 John Fouch, CW2 Matthew Sandbothe, SSG Craig Rennick, and SPC Weston Holtmeyer.
The soldiers spent nine months providing support to ground forces in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Family members and friends of the soldiers said they were grateful to have their loved ones home after nine months.
"I'm really excited," said Joslyn Holtmeyer, younger sister to Weston Holtmeyer. "It's my big brother, it's been nine months... it's hard to be away from my big brother."
Specialist Weston Holtmeyer said his first deployment overseas has given him a new appreciation for his life in mid-Missouri. "Let's not take anything for granted," Holtmeyer said. "I was only away for 273 days... it seemed like forever."
"It was a very long nine months," said Holtmeyer's older sister Kaela Ryan. "We did a lot of stuff like sending packages and things to make sure he was truly remembered at home."
First Sergeant Jason Walling said the deployment was worth it to safeguard the freedom of the people welcoming them home.
"We flew more missions, we helped more people," Walling said. "We found more bad guys, so by the numbers we did the best."
The people of Wardsville had a special welcome home for one of the soldiers who returned Friday, Warrant Officer Matthew Sandbothe.
Sandbothe had no idea he would be greeted by signs along the roadway leading up to his house, and would be met by practically the entire neighborhood when he pulled into his driveway.
Sandbothe said he considers himself lucky to come back to a community he loves.
â??The support that you have for the military in this community is just unbelievable,â?? Sandbothe said. â??I am fortunate enough to experience what I am experiencing now. I have a brother thatâ??s sitting in Afghanistanâ?| doing the exact same thing that Iâ??m doing. We just say prayers that he gets to experience the same thing that I do.â??
Ten soldiers deployed in October. One soldier was not able to make it back to the welcome back ceremony, but all ten of them made it home safe.