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Troops from South Carolina National Guard unit return home

National Guard

Members of a South Carolina National Guard unit returned home Sunday. (WRDW-TV / July 10, 2011)

June 10, 2011

GRANITEVILLE, S.C. -- More than 100 soldiers from the 1221st Engineering Company are home with their families.

The South Carolina National Guard unit left to Afghanistan a year ago, but it was a bittersweet day for some families.

Not only did this division have one of the toughest missions, but they lost two of their own.

Family and friends cheered on troops as they arrived to Aiken Tech Sunday.

"We are looking forward to seeing them, and we appreciate a job well done," said Roger Caldwell, a father of one of the soldiers.

Caldwell says he got little sleep Saturday night knowing his youngest son, Kyle, was coming home Sunday.

"It's a family tradition to honor the flag and stand for the freedom we have," Caldwell said.

Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston says when troops leave, they are completely focused on their mission.

"We are trained on our mission, but we leave everything behind," he said. "All of our cares and worries are dumped on the families and that's tough. They are the real heroes who are backing us up."

These troops from South Carolina's National Guard had one of the most difficult missions in Afghanistan.

"As people know, improvised explosive devices -- IEDs -- are the biggest killer on this battlefield; they purposely went out to find those IEDs and remove them," Livingston said.

One of those IEDs proved deadly, claiming the life of Martha Rabon's son, Sgt. Luther "Will" Rabon.

"I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my body," Martha Rabon said.

Sunday, they held a moment of silence for Sgt. Rabon and Staff Sgt. Willie Harley of Aiken who both died last fall.

"My heart was breaking," Rabon said. "I'm glad the boys are home, I'm glad they're safe, and I felt that when they came, they brought part of him home with them."

While her son didn't come home, she says it was a sacrifice he was ready to make.

"He said, 'It's not here, it's here in my heart,'" Rabon said. "'I want to go over there and take care of the problem so it doesn't come over here to you and daddy and my children.'"

A total of 129 soldiers returned to their homes in parts of South Carolina.

The unit had been in Mississippi for a few weeks before arriving to Aiken Tech Sunday.


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