ALEXANDER CITY, AL (WSFA) - Messages for soldiers grace schools and businesses days before members of the 214th Military Police Unit arrive in Alexander City.
"They've been gone just about a year," says Tonya Smith. But for folks like Smith, the celebration will be bittersweet.
"They were sent over as a unit. They were sent over together. They should all come home together," she says.
- First group expected home Friday around 12:30pm
- Everyone asked to listen to 97.5FM as they're tracked home from Camp Shelby
- Line Hwy. 280 between patriot point and Russell Athletics retail store.
- Bring flags, signs and ribbons!
- The same will be repeated next week for the second group.
Her fiance Robert Wayne Knight is one of 57 soldiers in the 214th not coming home on time. Because the soldiers are in separate groups, Alexander City officials planned two celebrations.
But Smith doesn't think that's right.
"I don't see how hard it should be to say, 'Ok everybody should be home in three weeks, let's have a big ceremony in three weeks. Everybody come back, we'll recognize everybody. We'll do it all at the same time.'"
Yellow ribbons are already hanging up across Alexander City in preparation for the soldiers' return, but one thing city officials stress is they want every soldier, no matter when they come home, to feel welcomed and appreciated.
"If they came in 5 waves, we'd be there for every wave of it, and so the intention is to celebrate each time they come home," says Alex City city council member, Bill Young.
Young didn't know the group had been split until a few days ago. He says the council decided to hold two celebrations fully expecting residents to rally both times.
"We have two opportunities to say thank you and that's what we're going to do. And we trust our citizens will get out and do the right thing."
City council members say Alex City police officers are driving to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to bring the soldiers home Friday. They plan to do that for the second group, too.