The soldiers documented the war for the military and assisted civilian journalists in Iraq. Most were welcomed by family and friends, but Sgt. Doug Anderson, who was on his fifth tour of duty, returned to find only the USO workers waiting for him.
"A simple smile, a flower, a handshake. Anything means a thousand words when you have no one there," said Sgt. Doug Anderson, U.S. Army.
In six years, Sgt. Debra Hartman will become the military's longest serving female member. In the last year while she was away, her mother, father and sister died.
"One by one all the bills, one by one all the accounts. One by one just trying to get through everything by myself," said Sgt. Debra Hartman, U.S. Army.
Those sacrifices may not be known to the people who watched the soldiers roll through Forest Park -- and who paid homage to their service assisting senior generals in Iraq since deployment last summer. It was the 318th's third tour of duty since 2007, and the group may be headed to Afghanistan before not too long
"It may be kind of warm today but it's nothing like Iraq. When I was there, it was 135 degrees. These men and women survived that kind of heat and they did our country and our state a great, great debt of service," said Gov. Pat Quinn.
"It is because of these skilled citizen soldiers that we were able to bring this to a conclusion, and I'd like to thank them again as their commander ? and get out of the way so they can get back with their families who were a critical part of that team and they could not have done it without them either. Thank you very much," said Brigadier Gen. Joe Chesnut, U.S. Army.