Hugs and tears as National Guard unit welcomed home

Members of an SC Army National Guard unit based in Conway took part in an emotional welcome home celebration Tuesday, after completing a one-year deployment in Kosovo.

Overseas, the mission of Charlie Company, 1-118th Infantry Regiment was to maintain a safe environment for the people of that war-torn nation in Southeastern Europe.

Back in Conway, their mission was to be reunited with family and friends.

Sgt. Phillip Eaves II of Cherry Grove saw his son for the first time since Phillip Eaves III was just a few days old. Sgt. Eaves says that separation was the hardest part of his deployment.

"Not being able to see my boy grow up for that first year, missing a lot of the first things," Eaves said.

For Eaves' wife and their three kids, it'll be a big adjustment having Daddy home again, but a welcome one.

"I believe all kids need Mommy and Daddy in their lives," said Sharon Hickman Eaves. "It's going to be a very good thing, it's just going to take some time."

While SPC Octavius Moody was away, he could communicate with his family back home in Marion by email, but it just wasn't the same.

"They have things you want to talk about, but you're not really there to express it, so mixed feelings happen, but you have to deal with that, it's one of the things that goes with the job," Moody said.

Now that he's home again, Moody hopes to go back to South Carolina State University to study music, with the goal of becoming a music teacher.

SPC David Johnson, Jr. of Dillon County is a man of few words, when it comes to his plans for the future.

"I'm going to stay out of work for a little while and then find a job," Johnson said.

But David Johnson, Sr. has a few more words to say about the son who seemed so much like a boy when he left home.

"He may have left a man, I just didn't realize it," said the elder Johnson. "But now I know, my son's a man now and I'm real proud of him."

Pride was a word that came up often for the 35 men and women who participated in Tuesday's ceremony.

Pride, plus love, dedication and commitment - but mostly just "welcome home."