SPARTA, ILLINOIS (KTVI) – A crowd of hundreds gathered in the Sparta High School gymnasium to welcome home the 661st Engineer Company with the Army National Guard. The return marked a milestone for the 661st Company because every member of the 661st that left for Afghanistan for their 1-year tour, returned home on Wednesday. Company Commander Martin Massey dismissed the 661st for the final time with an extra happy heart, knowing that every man and woman came home safe.
“When you go to a place like Afghanistan,” Captain Massey explained, “unfortunately there’s injuries and there’s casualties, so to bring everyone home in one group is an absolute best case scenario.””
For the Lanter Family out of Carlisle, Illinois, Debbie Lanter received the gift of her son, Steven, returning home safe on her birthday.
“This is the best birthday present I could ever ever want, him being home. We’re going out to eat. We’re going to celebrate.” Debbie said with tears in her eyes.
St. Louis native, Kyle Hutton could not wait to find his way towards his fiancé and family after the long trip home.
Hutton said, “It was a lot longer than it normally is, but everybody was so ready to get here, just singing and happy. It was amazing. It was actually a pretty good ride.”
April Eichenseer watched as her husband, Tim held his youngest son, Camden, for the first time since the little one’s birth over 9 months ago.
“It’s like seeing your husband hold your baby for the first time all over again.” April sighed, “It was a huge relief.”
Tim was still in shock, “It’s weird. It’s just beyond me. I can’t believe in 6-7 months how much he’s grown. It’s just a good feeling. I’m glad to be home and I’m glad we all came home safe.”
It was an emotional reunion for Tim’s oldest son, Braden as well.
“It was pretty cool.” Braden said, “My heart was out to here the whole time.”
When asked what was the first thing he wanted to do with his dad, not that he’s home, Braden did not hesitate.
“Just sit on the couch with him.”