ELLENWOOD, Ga - Dozens of soldiers with Georgia's Army National Guard are back in the arms of their loved ones after a year's deployment to Kosovo.
It's has been a trying year for Holly Lacy and her 9-month-old daughter Auburn. The infant's father made it home to see his child's birth before returning to his mission overseas.
"Being without my best friend and partner was really hard," said Lacy. "Holidays are very very hard. Everything was hard. Life without Michael is hard."
While Lacy was busy growing, her father was part of a group of 300 soldiers sent from the Oglethorpe Armory in Ellenwood to their peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
Among them was 5-year-old Anna Hall's dad.
"She's let herself talk about it now that she knows he's coming home," said Lori Hall. "She didn't want to talk him being gone most of the year."
When two busloads of soldiers pulled up to then armory Monday morning, the joy could be measured in decibels.
"It's amazing," said Michael Lacy while holding 9-month-old Auburn. "She's gotten so big. I'm at a loss for words."
Some of the soldiers will return home to unemployment. The Army will provide help, but commanders in the National Guard say it may be hard to convince some soldiers to accept the assistance.
"When you wear the uniform you think you're invincible," said Captain Gregory Calhoun. "You think you've got to do it yourself, but that's not the case. We're a team."
For the immediate future, Michael Lacy's job will be to get to know the infant daughter he hasn't seen since birth.