Ill. soldiers home from Afghanistan

July 27, 2009 The soldiers make up one of several Illinois guard units returning home this week.

Over the next 24 hours, nearly 300 Illinois National Guardsmen and women are returning to their lives and loved ones. There are five units returning.

ABC7 visited with one of those units on Monday.

Soldiers say it's been a long ride home. They were mobilized last August for duty in Afghanistan. Their tour ends on Monday with a grand welcome home at Steamwood High School.

Soldiers are the Company A, 1st battalion, 178th infantry and they are home.

After a brief ceremony, it's time to find their families and friends. Hugs, kisses and a few tears marked their return.

"It's so great. I thought this day was would never come. The whole deployment seems small compared to the last two weeks," said Staff Sgt. John Farrar, Illinois National Guard.

Staff Sargeant John Farrar came back to his wife and three children.

Kids sporting their own message on their shirts – 'I'm here to get me daddy.'

Sargeant Farrar called when he was back on U.S. soil, but Monday is a great relief for relatives.

"Knowing that he was back home and safe it's a feeling you just can't describe," said Celine Farrar, wife.

Words may not describe it, but the picture does.

Sargeant Robin Bivens completes his guardsman duty in the fall. This was his last mission.

"I couldn't even make up a word to describe it. It feels great," said Sgt. Robin Bivens Illinois National Guard.

His girlfriend credits easy access to phones and computers that helped them stay connected during the year deployment.

"I got to talk to him constantly. That was wonderful. In Iraq it was once a week," said Jessica Olofsson, girlfriend.

Sargeant Bivens' family came to Illinois from midland Texas to welcome him home.

While technology may have eased communication, Bivens' mother says seeing more news about the instability in Afghanistan made it more difficult than his deployment to Iraq.

"The first time he went I had a huge peace that everything was OK. I didn't worry. This time it wasn't as easy but he's home and it's all good," said Lori Bivens, mother.

"I know that God's been with him and kept him safe but it's better when you can see him, hold him, touch him, a lot better," said Rick Bivens, father.

"Sometimes it's actually harder on the families than the soldier. The soldier know what he's doing. The families don't know what's he doing. A lot of times he's just chilling out and the families think he's out there in harms way somewhere," said Retired Maj. Larry Dolan, Illinois National Guard.

One guardsman was injured from that unit.

In all, three units returned on Monday. Two more arrive on Tuesday.

Currently there are 3200 air and army national guardsmen serving overseas.

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