UNION, SC (WIS) - WIS News 10 was there when the first wave of soldiers landed at Pope Air Force Base this month.
But thousands more are still in the Middle East waiting for their own homecomings.
No doubt the families have big plans for their heroes' returns. But one soldier will get a big surprise that's actually a lot smaller than he might expect.
Looking at her today, you wouldn't believe what Mona Franklin looked like when her husband, Sergeant Ben Franklin, left with the 218th for Afghanistan fifteen months ago.
"It was hard just to walk, just to move, just to do daily activities," says Mona.
Mona weighed 360 pounds. Simple activities were a chore. When ben left for his deployment, times got even harder.
"A lot of stress eating, a lot of laying around and a lot of being depressed," she describes.
So Mona decided to do something about it. she had gastric bypass surgery and lost nearly 200 pounds.
The Mona Franklin of today is now a much smaller 195 pounds.
"I feel like a 20-year-old. I feel like a new person," she says.
And instead of sitting around and just eating, Mona now exercises regularly with her son Corey. She even helped decorate the union armory for the soldiers homecoming, which is expected to be next week.
And when Ben gets home, it will be his first view of the new Mona.
"I think he's going to be shocked. I think he's going to be very happy," she says.
Mona and ben kept in touch via video phone, with the camera showing just her face. Her new body has been a tough secret to keep from her husband.
"I want to share it with him, I want to show him. But I think for him to see it person, he'll get more out of it," she says.
Mona still has another fifty pounds to go until she reaches her weight loss goal. But her husband still gets to come home from half a world away to a wife that weighs just a little more than half of what she did when he left.
Reported by Drew Stewart