SACRAMENTO – About 150 members of the Army National Guard from throughout California returned home to their families after being deployed for nearly a year in Afghanistan.
"We're really just trying to hold it together," Dina Sanchez said. "Trying not to cry."
Dina Sanchez and her husband Steve Tolson were among half a dozen families waiting anxiously at Sacramento International Airport to be reunited with their loved ones.
The soldiers are with the 1113th Transportation company based out of San Jose. The company provided logistical support to coalition and Afghan forces across all of Southern Afghanistan. Though the troops were gone for 11 months, the final home stretch at the airport felt like the longest.
The Tolson Family, who is from Vacaville, brought their grandson Levi to see his dad.
"Relieved," Steve Tolson said. "It's been a long year. I'm more excited for him to see his son. He hasn't seen him in a year."
A lot has happened during the year - Levi is now walking, which is something his dad Specialist John Tolson has never seen in person.
"It's hard to know they are not there for all family events. All the things they miss while there, especially with [Levi]," Sanchez said. "Growing up and going through different milestones."
With the Patriot Guard Riders waiting in the wings, families became more antsy the longer they had to wait.
Thunderous applause greeted each soldier as they came down the escalator.
Levi was also finally reunited with his dad.
"He's a walker now," SPC. Tolson said. "A walker and a talker."
Levi and his dad have a lot to catch up on.
"I missed out on my son growing up but as you can see he's doing real good," SPC Tolson added. "Amazing. Something I wish I could have seen before I left but it was good. I'm happy."
John Tolson is happy to be home safe with family, and it couldn't have come at a better time. He gets to celebrate his dad's birthday on Friday.
"It's the best birthday present I can have," Steve Tolson smiled.