Jamie Oberg, News 9
OKLAHOMA CITY - Members of the 45th Infantry who were stationed in Afghanistan are home for the holidays. Right now, 33 soldiers and their families are busy enjoying their time together.
It was an emotional return for families at the homecoming Thursday morning in Norman.
The National Guard says these citizen soldiers got to come home in time for Christmas because of a "surge reduction."
Families are overjoyed, but their soldiers can't help but think of those still overseas.
"Being here is the best Christmas present someone could ask for. We've been through a lot," SPC Tyler Lewis said.
It was the 25-year-old's first deployment even though Lewis has already served in the Oklahoma National Guard for seven years.
Both of Lewis's grandmothers were glued to his side because they were so happy to have him back in Tulsa in time for Christmas,
His wife, Ashli, couldn't stop kissing him, even during the interview.
"I'm just excited to have him home. It's the best Christmas present ever."
While the homecoming is a happy time for him and his family, SPC Lewis said it also has its sad side.
"Our guys are still over there fighting the fight. Pray they come home safe and in one piece and they get to have the same joy we have right now," he said.
SPC Cory Eller hugged his baby boy close. ""He's so big!" He's changed!"
When Eller last saw him before his deployment, Colton was just 15 days old. It was thinking about moments like this, he said, that got him through tough days overseas.
"One thing I missed over there, wasn't pizza, wasn't movies," he said. "It's these two right here, and my girls,"
Eller's wife has been a single-mom of Colton and two daughter's since her husband has been away.
"It's hard," Jackie Eller said. "I've got some help now."
The soldiers of the 45th lost 14 of their own in Afghanistan. Major General Myles Deering told his soldiers Tuesday to take it easy one day at a time, because he knows adjusting to life back home is hard, too.
"You gotta find work. The day to day grind relieves, so where do you go from here?" SPC Lewis said.
As these soldiers get used to life back on Oklahoma soil, they say their hearts are still in Afghanistan until the rest of the men and women of the 45th are back.
"Hang in there. Be safe. Keep your eyes open," SPC Eller said.
Around 2,200 deployed together in their unit in June. The rest of the 45th ID is expected home in March.