Updated: Saturday, 17 Nov 2012, 8:44 AM EST
Published : Friday, 16 Nov 2012, 5:34 PM EST
NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) -- An emotional homecoming took place at Quonset Point Friday as dozens of Rhode Island soldiers returned home after spending a year overseas.
The C-130 plane carrying the Rhode Island National Guard troops touched at about 4:00 p.m., and family members had smiles and tears of happiness as the soldiers walked off the plane.
The Thanksgiving celebration is starting early for the families of soldiers from the 143rd Infantry. Relatives and friends lined the tarmac at Quonset Air Base holding signs, balloons, and cameras, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Air National Guard plane.
The soldiers are the last of the 100-person unit to return from their year-long deployment in Afghanistan.
Edith McLaughlin says it's been a long twelve months without her grandson, Spc. Michael Marioenzi.
"It's been hard, he's missed so many things," she said. "Coming back he's a grown man, not a boy anymore."
Marioenzi says he plans to join the ROTC at URI, but not before spending some time with his family.
"It was perfect timing, you know, we've got Thanksgiving coming on Thursday, so it'll be good to be home for that, for the holidays," he added.
Michael Williams of Bristol tells us he set up an elaborate homecoming for his stepson, Lt. Neil Wagoner.
"We just put 60 signs up on the way home, so that when he drives home he'll see how much we missed him," he said.
Many of the Guardsmen will now have some well-deserved time off.
Copyright WPRI 12