National Guardsmen Return Home From Iraq

Sunday, May 24th 2009, 5:24 pm
By: News On 6

By Jeffery Smith, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Dozens of National Guardsmen are back in Tulsa after spending the past eight months in Iraq.

They were bused in from Fort Sill on Sunday to family members anxious for their return home. With an hour to go before she saw her husband again, Amy Etheridge said it was the longest hour of her life.

"It's hard not having your best friend anymore," Etheridge said. "But I'm so happy he's coming home safe and sound."

Spc. Jeffery Etheridge has been in the Army National Guard for six years, but this is his first tour in Iraq. He left behind his 1-year-old Noah and a wife who had to play double duty.

"The easy stuff is the straight-up mommy stuff," Amy Etheridge said. "The hard stuff is taking out the trash and mowing the lawn and making sure the cars are serviced. But we got it done."

Jeffery Etheridge was one of 80 soldiers coming home from the 834th Aviation Maintenance Company.

Laura McCliam was waiting for her husband on her birthday.

"He gets out of giving me a gift this year, doesn't have to buy a card or anything," McCliam said.

The buses came, but for hundreds of family members, they couldn't come fast enough. When the band stopped playing, it was time for Noah to say hi to daddy.

A man of few words, he says he thought about this moment every night.

"It was difficult," Jeffery Etheridge said. "I really can't put that into words. It's something you can't explain unless you experience it."

For military families, the Memorial Day homecoming means so much more.

"We just got to remember all our soldiers that did fall, and then be happy for the ones that do take care of us and defend our freedom and come home," Amy Etheridge said.