COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH/AP) -- Staff Sergeant Braden Hart has was one of dozens of soliders returning home from Afghanistan.
Hart's been in the National Guard for 11 years and this was his his third deployment.
The longtime solider says this trip was harder than previous deployments because he didn't have three children counting down the days till daddy returned.
"Over there you don't get to talk to them all the time, you get to Skype every now and then but actually being able to see them and hold them and face to face that's the best part, said Hart.
The soliders returning Thursday say the first order of business will be making up for lost time.
Several already planning to have their favorite meal before returning home to make Christmas memories.
"It means everything to me, families the most important thing to me and being with them is always the most important thing to me," concludes SSG Hart.
Governor Nikki Haley was on hand, not as the state's leader but as a wife eagerly awaiting the return of her solider, first gentleman Captain Michael Haley.
Haley and her family didn't speak to the media a spokesperson saying the Governor was on family business.
The deployment was Haley's first overseas since he joined the Army National Guard as an officer in 2006.
Prior to the deployment, he worked as a medical service corps officer and a planning officer in the Guard's Columbia headquarters.