Nearly two dozen soldiers from Fresno’s Army National Guard base are back in the valley. Family and friends welcomed them home Friday as they walked through the terminal at Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
They were stationed in Afghanistan the last six months handling ground transportations. They are part of President Obama’s drawdown effort which has now brought back 33,000 of those surge troops who were sent overseas nearly three years ago.
24-year old Toby Berube talked about the difficulties of his first deployment.
“Work was hard, but that's physical so I was able to do it. Just being away from family was the hardest part of being overseas,” said Toby Berube of the Army National Guard.
Stationed in one of the most dangerous parts of the world, this unit surprisingly did not encounter much violence.
“We really got lucky, we got a good area and it was really calm where we were at,” said Sgt. Sergio Rubio of the Army National Guard.
Being gone so long now makes the U.S. seem foreign to many of these men.
“I think I was more nervous to come home than I was to go to Afghanistan, but it's good to see the support,” said Andrew Garcia of the Army National Guard.
Andrew Garcia served along side his brother Gabriel.
“There’s no greater honor than to be able to serve with your actual brother,” said Andrew Garcia.
“You know it was comforting. He's got my back and I’ve got his,” said Gabriel Garcia of the Army National Guard.
For their mother, it was comforting to her knowing they were together.
“I’m just so thrilled to have them home safe and I’m so proud of them,” said Lisa Garcia, mother of two soldiers.
Although these servicemen are now supposed to be home for good, they know that in the military nothing is guaranteed.
Reporter: “Would you go back and do it again if you had to?”
“If I had to yes, I would go back,” said Berube.
Approximately 68,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. If the president's withdrawal plan stays on pace, the remaining 130 soldiers from the Fresno base should be home by March.