The soldiers got a hero's welcome Friday as they returned home.
Lights, sirens, cheers and salutes all set the scene in west suburban Aurora as family and friends welcomed home the heroes. The 27 men were the first wave of about 80 members of the Illinois Army National Guard 106th Cavalry Squadron to return home.
For Benjamin Soloff, it was the first time he got a chance to hold his two-week old son, Ryley.
"[I] can't describe it," Soloff said.
The new mother and soldier's wife, Brittany Soloff, was filled with joy and relief.
"It's great to have him home," she said.
It was also a proud moment for Benjamin's brother, Joshua, who originally was deployed along with Benjamin.
"I joined basic as soon as I found out he was going overseas, graduated basic training and was all happy to go overseas with him. But at the last minute, they switched us, and I haven't seen him in a year," said Joshua Soloff, who returned from Afghanistan last week.
For Michael Hampton, who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the day was the answer to many nights of prayer.
"It's a good feeling. I'm fortunate. I'm grateful to be home with my family. I fought for my country. I feel real good," Hampton said.
It was a feeling that was being echoed many times over Friday.
"It feels great. The best part of deployment is coming home," said returning soldier Salvador Garduna.
The squadron's mission was to train Afghan police and military personnel. The entire unit will be honored formally in December.