More than 2,000 members of the Oklahoma National Guard are now home with their families in time for Christmas. News On 6 anchor Craig Day reports they are on a short holiday break before returning to Texas and eventually to Iraq. For those members of the 45th, the homecoming couldn't come at a better time.
Ever since he's been gone, Cheyenne Stephenson has wanted her Daddy to come home. She's been counting down the days.
"She would tell me every day. Three more days. And then we would say two more days," said Chelsea Stephenson.
Finally, that day came. Private Russell Stephenson and nearly 2,200 other members of the Oklahoma National Guard came home just in time for Christmas.
"Christmas is just that special time of year when families are supposed to be together," said Pvt. Russell Stephenson.
The National Guard members from the 45th have been in Texas for training since October. Donations from the American Legion, private businesses and individuals made it possible for the troops to be home for Christmas.
"To know that the state is behind us and not only they say they're behind us, but they put forth effort and emptied their pockets, and helped us get bus rides back, it's just tremendous and we really appreciate it," said Pvt. Russell Stephenson.
"I'm just so glad he made it," said Chelsea Stephenson.
While home in Cleveland, Stephenson will visit as many family members as he can. That includes plenty of time with Cheyenne.
"She is a little daddy's girl. She's been telling him she's going to help him cook the turkey and wrap the presents and everything," said Chelsea Stephenson.
On January 2nd, Stephenson and the other troops will go back to Fort Bliss, Texas for more training. Then later that month, they will deploy to Iraq, but that can wait for now. Especially for a soldier, there's really no place like home for the holidays.
The troops are expected to return from Iraq in September. The Stephenson's are expecting their second child in February. They're not sure if Russell will get to come home on leave when the baby is born.
Orginally aired on 12/24/2007