Angela Parrish has known her husband since high school and the couple married in 2010. But Wednesday afternoon, moments before he returned from a 10-month combat deployment, nervous feelings fluttered inside her.
"I feel almost like a newlywed again," she said.
Parrish was one of nearly 100 family and friends of soldiers with the Tennessee Army National Guard's 230th Sustainment Brigade. Forty of the Chattanooga-based unit's soldiers returned home after a tour in Kuwait.
A total of 309 soldiers with the brigade left Tennessee last January and later flew to Kuwait. On Wednesday, all but about 40 returned to stations here and in Knoxville, Millington and Smyrna, Tenn.
The remaining soldiers are finishing post-deployment processing at Camp Shelby, Miss., and will return home in the coming weeks, officials said.
The mission of the unit, which formed in 2005, was to oversee the transport of U.S. equipment and personnel out of the entire southern half of Iraq before the Dec. 31, 2011, troop withdrawal deadline It was the brigade's first overseas deployment.
"We really had a lot of equipment come out of there," said Staff Sgt. Steven Ward.
Ward's wife, Mercedes Ward, and his sister, Michelle Starling, were at the Chattanooga National Guard Armory to welcome their soldier home.
Starling and Steven Ward are both veterans of Operation Desert Storm from the early 1990s.
"We were worried about him but we knew everything was going to be OK, he was in God's hands," Starling said.
The Kuwait mission was Sgt. Samantha Lungcharoen's first deployment. She said Wednesday that the last few weeks preparing to return were the most chaotic.
The soldiers had to perform their daily tasks, train troops with their replacement brigade to take over and also pack equipment for the trip home, she said.
The Ringgold, Ga., mother had four children awaiting her arrival Wednesday.
"I've missed them so much," she said. "I just want to go home."
Melissa Botts' husband, Staff Sgt. Kenny Botts, surprised her on their five-year anniversary in October during his leave. The staff sergeant said the look on his wife's face Wednesday was the same as when he showed up at their Cleveland, Tenn., church in the fall.
Ward deployed during Desert Storm, to Iraq in 2004 with the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment and with the 230th during this recent tour. As a medic, he was one of a few soldiers in the brigade that did convoy missions into Iraq from Kuwait.
But the Kuwaiti operation was anything but routine and the enemy was still dangerous, he said.
"They were still trying to hit us," he said. "It still wasn't a safe zone for us, even in Kuwait we had to be on our guard."
Ward's two recent deployments fit almost as bookends to the war -- a combat tour inside the country in 2004 followed by a mission to help end the war in 2011.
"We did what they said couldn't be done," he said. "We got everybody out before the deadline. That was a great moment for us."