Amidst the hustle and bustle of holiday travelers at Midway Airport on Wednesday night, there was a homecoming many months and thousands of miles in the making.
"They look so good. They feel so good," said Mary Knott, marine's mother.
"I'd like to say you get used to these deployments but you never do," said Steve Knott, marine's father.
Marine Lance Corporal Brian Knott is on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. But for the next four days he and a fellow Marine from Salt Lake City will enjoy being treated like civilians and sons.
"On my last deployment when we got back we felt a bit unwelcome. People were protesting. It's nice to see people out here supporting us," said Lance Corporal Brian Knott, U.S. Marine Corps.
"Back in Afghanistan you worried about getting blown up, getting in a firefighting, how we were going to deal with the Afghan people," said Corporal Michael Awada, U.S. Marine Corps.
But here at home?
"You don't have to worry about all those things. It's kind of a relief," said Corporal Awada.
In southwest suburban Mokena, there was another hero's welcome. Staff Sergeant Brian Poplin was reunited with his wife and three kids. Poplin is a helicopter gunner who was injured in Iraq, earned the Purple Heart and then headed to Afghanistan. He's also a cancer survivor.
"If this isn't a hero, I don't know what is," said Steven Poplin, soldier's son.
"My father is a Vietnam veteran, I'm sure if he was here right now he'd probably have a tear in his eye," said Staff Sgt. Brian Poplin, U.S. Army National Guard.
Whether it was at a VFW Hall in the suburbs or on an escorted ride home, for these military men and their families, it was a hard-earned homecoming, one we can all be thankful for.