It was the one thing family members had been waiting for. The troops arrived in Kankakee escorted by over 100 patriot riders on motorcycles.
"Oh my God, we've been waiting so long for him to come home, and now they're all going to be coming home. Thank God. They're safe," said Sandra Ramos, a soldier's mother.
"I think this city and Illinois are proud of the service men and women who have served the country, who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Homecoming's are always happy days," said Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.
The governor joined the supporters to welcome back the celebrated Guardsmen and women who have been deployed to build schools and structures in the Afghanistan region.
"It's an honor for the ones that are coming back, but we must remember the POWs that are still missing in action and the ones that died for our freedom. So it's an honor just to be here today," Cmdr. Mike Carruthers of the Will County Council.
After a short ceremony, there were plenty of hugs, kisses and tears as eager soldiers were reunited with their loved ones.
"I'm so happy to see my family," the Illinois National Guard's Sgt. Bill Ringhofer said.
Although the service men and women can now go home with their families, their commitment is not over yet. They will be called back so that the military can help them reacclimate to their civilian lives.
The soldiers who returned to Kankakee Sunday were part of the largest overseas deployment of the Illinois National Guard since World War II. The deployment includes approximately 30 units throughout the state.
The remaining units are scheduled to return later in the summer.