All Andrew Hersman wanted to do when he returned home to Pennsylvania from a nine-month deployment to Kuwait was feel some grass.
"I got here and the grass, just wow - I just laid down," Hersman, of Millerton, said on Tuesday, after disembarking from a bus that brought him and about 20 other local National Guardsmen to Williamsport. "It's just sand over there. Very, very dry. Just like your sandbox," he said to his nephew Landon Seager, who was hanging on his shoulder.
The noon sun was hot in the Williamsport Armory parking lot, but Chris Niemczyk, who drove trucks while overseas, didn't mind.
"That 120, 130 average gets to be just a little much," he said.
His daughter Laci made a game of re-enacting her initial jump into her father's arms, over and over.
The troops returning were part of the 1st Battalion of the 109th Infantry of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. This past deployment was spent working a security detail at bases in Kuwait, which America's military uses as a jumping-off point for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The flight of the guardsmen dropped them off in Harrisburg Tuesday morning, but they weren't coming directly from Kuwait. They spent about a week and a half at Camp Shelby, Miss., for what Shawn Dean, of Tioga, calls the "demo" process - demobilization.
"They want to make sure your health is up to date, and make sure you're getting paid - all that fun stuff," Dean said.
Though the troops had been in-country for that time, Brandon Moore, of Wellsboro, hadn't yet told anyone he was returning but his "adopted parents" and friends Earl and Carol Weimar, who drove down to pick him up.
"People still think I'm overseas," Moore said with a wide grin. "I'm pretty excited to walk in and surprise them."