Sarah Williams slept much better last night:?Her son, Sgt. Jesse Williams, has returned safely from Afghanistan.
Sgt. Williams was among 94 soldiers from Company A of the 33rd Battalion of the 130th Infantry Illinois National Guard Unit based in West Frankfort who returned Tuesday afternoon to a patriotic welcome from an enthusiastic crowd lining Main Street.
“This is a pretty good feeling. I?didn’t think there would be this big of a turnout,”?Williams said.
His mother said she was “just so relieved” to have her son home.
“I?can sleep now,”?Sarah Williams said. “It’s so wonderful to have them all back.”
Sgt. Williams was returning from his second deployment overseas. He served in Iraq from 2005 to 2006.
For now, he said he intends to spend time with his friends and family — and attend Lollapalooza next month in Chicago.
Local troops Spc. Corey Kelley, Sgt. Seth Chambliss and Sgt. Robert Wehr also were among those who were welcomed home and honored during a brief ceremony inside Frankfort Community High School’s Max Morris Gymnasium.
“It was a long ride — 10 hours by plane and 16 hours by bus — but it was well worth the wait,”?Kelley said. “It seemed like this day was never going to come!”
Kelley’s father, Vince, smiled and said he was “going to lock him in the house for about a week.”
“I’ve got 12 months of family time to make up for,”?Spc. Kelley said. “Let’s get started!”
Commander John Metzger of the Benton VFW Post 2671 was among the veterans in attendance for Tuesday’s ceremony.
“This is a big day to show our support for our troops,”?Metzger said.
State Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton) called it “a great day — I?feel like it’s the Fourth of July.”
“A year ago, we were down here, and that seems like a long time ago,”?Forby said. “I?appreciate all the people turning out to honor the troops, and I?know the troops appreciate it.
“They’re returning with a bigger heart than when they left,”?he added. “With all the people here, their hearts are big — seeing their wives, girlfriends, sisters and brothers, children. Our troops are the reason we’re No. 1, and we’re going to stay that way.”
Troops who are part of the 33rd Battalion include:
Spc. Hudert Ahn, Spc. Adam Anderson, Pfc. Albert Atkins, Spc. Zachary Austin, Cpt. Doyle Bedwell, Sfc. Joshua Belmont, Spc. Joshua Bertolozzi, Spc. David Black, Spc. Paul Bridges, Ssg. Michael Brown, Sgt. Nathan Burnett, Spc. Michael Byro, Spc. Seth Chambliss, Sgt. Jeremy Cheely, Spc. Scott Corrigan, Sgt. Gabriel Cullers, Sgt. Bernard Dickneite, Ssg. Robert Downen, Sgt. Troy Downen, Sgt. Chad Droege, Spc. Jordan Eldridge, Ssg. Edward Ellison, Sgt. Barry Engelhardt, Sgt. Paul Ensine, Spc. Dominique Fayne, Sgt. Daniel Fearday, Spc. Cole Fedderke, Spc. Mike Fisher, Sgt. Eric Gayer, Sgt. Eric Goben, Ssg. Nicholas Grant, Spc. John Grissom, Spc. Kevin Harris, Pfc. David Hartrum, Ssg. Christopher Henry, Spc. Richard Herring, Spc. Christopher Higgerson, Spc. Michael Hiller, Sgt. Ryan Hood, Spc. Jim Hutchings, Spc. Tyler Jaimet, Spc. Clinton Johnson, Sgt. Kevin Johnson, Spc. Matthew Jones, Spc. Scott Joyce, Spc. Corey Kelley, Pfc. Seth Knopp, Ssg. Thomas Lafond, Spc. Michael Leonard, Pfc. Rodger Little, Spc. Andrew Martin, Spc. Rene Martinez, Spc. Clint Mason, Ssg. Matthew McCarthy, Spc. Karl Mezo, Sfc. Demetrious Monroe, Pfc. Justin Moser, Ssg. Lance Odum, Pfc. Patrick O’Grady, Sgt. Douglas Osinga, 2Lt. Christopher Pegg, Spc. Alex Power, 1Lt. Jake Ragsdale, Ssg. Greg Ramsey, Spc. Vincent Rankin, Ssg. Charles Reed, Sgt. Jerrod Reid, Sgt. Jimmie Rice, Sgt. William Rice, Pv2 Brandon Sanders, Spc. Kenneth Sayers, Spc. Andy Scott, Sgt. Michael Scott, Sfc. Roger Scroggins, Spc. Corey Seidel, Pfc. Brian Sharp, Ssg. John Smith, Pfc. Joshua Soloff, Pfc. Morgan Stafford, Sgt. John Stanhouse, Pv2 David Stone, Ssg. Aaron Switalski, Spc. Allan Talley, Ssg. Mitchell Vaughn, Pfc. Sam Vicari, Pfc. Matthew Viverito, Pv2 Nathan Walters, Sgt. Robert Wehr, Spc. Josh White, Sfc. Dennis Whitehead, Spc. Joshual Whitler, Pfc. Nathan Wilkinson, Ssg. Gregory Williams and Sgt. Jesse Williams.
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