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An All-American Welcome Home

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Sunday, members of the community welcomed home Marines from the 1st Battalion, 23rd Regiment. For seven months, the Houston-based reserve unit served as security in Iraq's Al Anbar province.

"We wanted to have a little get-together for everyone because a lot of people in the community have been sending care packages to guys in the 1/23," said one of the spouses, Jodi Sheridan. "They're just faceless Marines. They don't know who they've been sending them to."

"It's nice to put faces with packages and letters, things like that," said Sgt. Byron Hancock. "A lot of these people, I didn't even know whenever we were over there. It's nice to get letters from them. It kind of reminds you of home. Now I get to put two and two together."

"When you get back and you get that first hug, that first kiss, that first smile, it makes you feel like everything you've done in life is perfect," said Maj. Roger Sheridan. "Right now, it's that moment, right now."

A couple of government officials made the trek from Austin to be a part of the welcome home.

"They are citizen soldiers that just did a remarkable job in Iraq," said State Senator Steve Ogden, "and I know that for a fact because my son, Capt. Mike Ogden, is in this battalion. We prayed for them everyday, and our prayers are answered when we see them home today."

"I see the pride that all of us have in what our troops are doing for us that kind of goes unspoken most of time, until events like this today," said State Rep. Fred Brown.

The young men who have found their way home say the simplest of things are what they missed most.

"Pretty much, the family and friendship is the best thing to see when you get back home," said Cpl. Anthony Ruiz. "You sort of miss the way it smells. You miss the little things, but most important is family and friends when you get back."

"It was the hardest thing I had to do in my life," said Maj. Sheridan. "We lost Marines over there, and that's gut-wrenching because each one's like a brother. But the joy knowing that the purpose we're serving is even more so. Our lives are worth fighting over there so we don't fight over here."

"Freedom's not free," said Sgt. Hancock. "It takes the sacrifice from somebody. I guess it was our time."