Nearly 100 Illinois soldiers are home for the holidays. They returned Friday to hugs, cheers and even some tears after serving nearly a year in Afghanistan.
The 822nd Military Police Company found out just a few weeks ago they were coming home and that they could make it in time for Christmas weekend.
For families awaiting their return in Arlington Heights, they couldn't ask for a better gift.
"I'm excited, just excited, it's exciting, I'm so glad he's home," said an overjoyed Lupe Karamaelas, whose son returned from Afghanistan.
Sgt. John Karamaelas said he's looking forward to relaxing with family, giving some presents and opening some too. "Just enjoy the time with my family," Karamaelas said.
Friday ends the second deployment for the company. The soldiers have been overseas for 11 months.
"We got married right before he left," said Sarah Jacobs, whose husband returned Friday. "We can't wait to start our honeymoon phase."
And for Sgt. Martinez the best is still ahead. He surprised his young daughter at school later Friday.
"She's my first daughter so she's the one that's closest to me. There's no words to explain how it's going to be," Martinez said.