With a sheriff's deputy and motorcycle escorts leading the way, Wetumpka soldier Tom Gibson made his way home.
Vehicles pulled to the side of the road to let the Alabama National Guard member through. Other residents stood alongside Highway 231, waiting for their chance to show support for Gibson's homecoming.
A line of flags greeted the soldier at his home upon arrival. With such an amazing response by friends, family, and community members, emotions ran deep.
"For all of you that helped my family, thank you, [. . .] and I mean that from the bottom of my heart," Gibson told community members outside his home.
Gibson served overseas for 14 months as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When news of his upcoming return hit home, Tom's wife Lori sprang to action, organizing a hero's welcome with the Patriot Guard, who was more than happy to help.
"So many soldiers in the Vietnam era didn't get the chance to get welcomed home, so one of our things is that we're never going to let that happen again," explained Paul Reynolds, State Captain of the Patriot Guard.
A line of community members ran far down Gibson's driveway. Each person waited to exchange words of thanks with the man of the hour.
Gibson, extremely grateful of community members, says he is glad to be home once again.
"It's unbelievable. I just don't know how to act. I see my swimming pool, and it's been almost two summers since I've been in it, so I'm looking forward to spending time with my kids, family and friends," Gibson said.
After a touching welcome ceremony, the Gibsons celebrate the time they will now be able to spend as a family.
"They can have anything they want but my husband. Nobody's getting my husband for a while. He's mine! I will share him with the kids for a little while, but he's mine," Lori Gibson explained.