An Emotional Homecoming at the 109th Armory

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KINGSTON -- An emotional homecoming Wednesday, complete with some surprises for 60 local soldiers and their families.

For the last nine months the National Guard Soldiers were in Kuwait. Now they're home in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Just before 12 p.m. the 109th Armory in Luzerne County was packed with people, full of tears.

Soldiers and their families were reunited after what they said was a long nine months apart.

Waiting with anticipation, military families with matching shirts, and welcome home signs, trying to keep their cameras steady in shaking hands. It had all the trappings of an emotional homecoming.

"It's been a long year, a long year, but he's home. He's home. That's all that counts," said Lori Michaels of Wyoming.

After nine months of skyping and emailing with bad internet connections, the hugs meant more than most could express in words.

"Oh my god, it's so overwhelming. It's been way too long," said Michaels.

"It's like a dream. I feel like I should wake up sometime and be in Kuwait, but it's real," said Spc. Tristen Vanderlick of Pittston.

Some soldiers chose to make their homecoming even more dramatic.

Sgt. David Olander, a former server at Red Robin in Wilkes-Barre Township served one very special meal to his fiance.

Olander's fiance thought he was coming home later, but Olander had it all planned.

"You know, funny thing, I walked into work yesterday, and they told me I'm cancelled. I wonder how that happened," said Kristyn Longfoot of Pittston.

So what's next after a surprise like this?

"Have a wonderful night, and just get back into the swing of things in civilian side and just have a good time and get ready for our wedding," said Sgt. David Olander of Pittston.

Sgt. Olander said he was told he would probably not be re-deployed anytime soon because of the troop draw-down.

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