Hundreds of soldiers return home for the holidays

One soldier steps away early from the formation to give a loved one a hug on Wednesday.
One soldier steps away early from the formation to give a loved one a hug on Wednesday.

FORT MILL, SC (WBTV/AP) - About 200 Army National Guard troops are home in the Carolinas for the holidays, welcomed with hugs and tears of joy.

South Carolina National Guard troops who had been training at Fort McCoy, Wis., for duty in Afghanistan arrived in Spartanburg and Fort Mill on Wednesday.

Family members crowded the parking lot of the Lowe's store in Fort Mill as about 100 members of the 1222nd Engineer Company arrived at midday. After a brief formation, the soldiers greeted their families and headed home.

Another 100 from the 174th Engineer Company arrived in Spartanburg.

Julie Yenicheck of Lowe's Home Improvement of Mooresville, N.C., says her company chipped in $25,000 of the $35,000 cost of bus transportation.

Originally, the soldiers were given some time off for Christmas, but couldn't afford tickets to get home. So, family members raised the $35,000 needed to bring them home.

Lowe's Home Improvement donated $25,000. Generous community members donated the remaining $10,000. It only took three days to get the money.

The soldiers were expected to arrive around 8 AM, but the trip was delayed a while. They ended up at Lowe's in Fort Mill around 12:15 pm Wednesday. After arriving, the soldiers stood in formation for about 10 minutes before finally being dismissed so they could reunite with their families.

They ship out after the first of the year.

10-year-old Brittany Detter of Gastonia, N.C., and her four siblings were waiting at a large tent at a Lowe's store in Fort Mill. Brittany says it's been lonely without her dad and would be worse if he wasn't there for Christmas.

The soldiers return to Wisconsin on Jan. 1.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.