National Guard troops return home for Christmas

WEST COLUMBIA (WACH)--Christmas came early for hundreds of families on Saturday.

More that 800 troops from the South Carolina National Guard's 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry, "Task Force Rifles," returned home in time for the holiday season.

Carla Williams was waiting on her husband, 1st Lt. Gary Williams. She said the last few minutes went by slowly.

"The last couple of moments before he came back were nervousness," Williams said. " When is he coming? Is he going to make it home for Christmas? So I'm glad they made it back on time."

The unit has been gone since January; providing security, communication, medical, and logistical training in Kuwait. But for Lt. Williams, being away from his wife and two children was the most difficult task.

"This homecoming is that much better, to see their faces," he said. "There's nothing like having to hold them in your hands."

The timing could not have been any better for 1st Lt. Ben Wheeler and his wife Catherine.

"Our two year anniversary was December 18," Wheeler said. "And then my birthday is tomorrow (Sunday). So it was just a good roundabout time to get home."

Catherine Wheeler said while their loved ones are serving the country, civilians have to stay strong on the home front.

"With family events and things like that, that is when you really miss them the most. But I did have a countdown in my room. It was nice to see that disappear."

Soldiers from outside the midlands also received bus rides to other cities in the Palmetto State; but not before sending out a message.

"I want to with everyone in South Carolina a Merry Christmas," Williams said. "And if your soldier is not with you right now, just know that they are with you in spirit."

A spirit that is very strong this holiday season.