There was a warm welcome on a very warm day in Plainfield as Small rolled in. He was finally home after spending the last year serving in a striker unit with the 25th Infantry Division in Afghanistan.
"Goosebumps, it was kind of like coming home for the first time," said Small.
Justin was born in Virginia, but moved to Plainfield in 7th grade and graduated from Plainfield Central High School. His close friends are proud of his accomplishments and are glad he is home safe.
"Any time that we're able to, you know, bring home our warriors from overseas -- unfortunately... we don't bring home a lot of them -- and that's why it's important we're all out here, we're showing our support," said close friend Mike Jaicomo.
After the big welcome, it was time to celebrate. Justin's dad, Steven, says his sense of pride and the community's gratitude is tremendous.
"I don't know how we got so lucky, to have the timing like this, but as we came through on the motorcade, people in their backyards were out celebrating, they were waving to us, and I felt like we shared the moment with all of Plainfield," said Steven Small.
Like many of his colleagues, Justin says he does not think he deserves all of this praise, especially with so many other soldiers not returning safely. However, with the help of Operation Welcome You Home and groups like it, he can be honored and thanked like he should be.
"They all are so humble and they tell us, 'I don't deserve this, I don't deserve this, it's the one's that didn't make it home, it's for my brothers that are still over there,' so it's real important that we show them that we care," said Donna Morsovillo of Operation Welcome You Home.
It was, however, a bittersweet day for Justin's family and friends; he has to return to duty June 20th.