218th soldiers head home for the weekend

POPE AIR FORCE BASE, NC (WIS) - Members of South Carolina's 218th National Guard unit are heading for some well-deserved leave, now that they're back on American soil.

The National Guard says about 200 members of the 218th touched down at Pope Air Force Base Tuesday morning shortly after 7am.

They were expected to arrive around noon.

Usually the flight home from Germany stops in Maine, but the pilots apparently decided not to make that stop because they had enough fuel to make the rest of the journey to North Carolina.

Some members of the 218th were stuck waiting for ride home in Kuwait for more than a week because their original airline, ATA Airlines, went bankrupt.

Sharon Lindler's husband was in that delayed group. She told us what it's been like to wait a year for her husband and then have his homecoming delayed.

"Yeah, that's been really hard for me to deal with," she explained. "I didn't even have this much anxiety and stuff when he came home from his leave. It didn't phase me a whole lot -- but this time it's been -- my nerves have just been shot. Not knowing exactly when they'll be coming in, when he's getting home, it's really been getting to me."

Not surprisingly, some 218th family members could care less about whether their loved ones got back to the U.S. early.

You might remember the story of Louis Wright - he's the solider who gave up his holiday leave to allow a solider who had a young child to return home. Well, Wright is finally back stateside and his family couldn't be happier.

Family member Al Wright says "U.S. soil, that's all that matters. He is in the U.S., I can handle him being in New York or California, but overseas, no. So it feels great."

Al says his family is planning on driving up to Fayetteville, North Carolina on Friday to see him.

General Bob Livingston is commanding the 218th in Afghanistan. WIS' David Stanton asked him by satellite about what his troops thought of the delays in getting home.

General Livingston said "it's an understandable thing. We've got the turbulence that's occurring within the airline industry. It's a civilian airline issue, and these flights have been scheduled for two or three months, and then we have a carrier go bankrupt and some other things happened. Most people are very understanding of that. Everybody wants to get home, but we want to get everybody home in a safe manner, too.

General Livingston also said there may be some slight delays in future flights home, but nothing like the one that just occurred.

General Livingston also says a large 'welcome home' ceremony is planned for the whole group in October at Williams-Brice Stadium.

The deployment of the 218th was the largest deployment of National Guard troops in South Carolina since World War II.

Posted by Bryce Mursch