MIAMI - Hundreds of South Florida soldiers were reunited with their families early Monday morning, after spending six months in Afghanistan.
Family members gathered in the early-morning darkness with balloons and signs to show how much they missed their loved ones and then, just before 6 a.m., the buses arrived.
The Army's 841st Engineer Battalion had spent months in northern Afghanistan setting up a troop withdrawal base. They had one more briefing and then it was time for the soldiers to finally be reunited with their families just a few feet away.
The service members with the were originally supposed to arrive in Miami on Sunday, but their flight was delayed in Texas due to bad weather. Instead, they had to wait another night before coming home to their loved ones.
"It was a great, overwhelming moment," Staff Sgt. Carl Toussaint told Local 10's Todd Tongen, after he was reunited with his wife and four children. "I dreamed about seeing them. I thought I was going to cry, but I guess I toughed it out."
Toussaint and the other soldiers spent the past several months setting up a critical staging area in Afghanistan. All of the equipment and supplies will be moved through the base before all U.S. troops leave the country.
"We take great pride in what we did, and we appreciate the support we got while we were over there," he said.
Toussaint has a few weeks off before he has to return to service, but his family already has big plans in store for that time.
His wife, Emi, said their kids have a list of welcome back activities planned for their father. Minutes after his arrival, they were already talking about taking a trip to Disney World. But for Toussaint, he said he's just looking forward to spending time together.
"I don't think there is a word for this. It is just amazing," said soldier Joel Montfort
Montfort has not seen his infant son since the baby was born. That weighed heavy on him while he was deployed.
"I was actually more concerned that he wouldn't recognize me and that he wouldn't be too upset when he saw me. It looks like he is liking me a lot right now so that is good," Montfort said.
There were huge hugs and countless kisses as they were all mesmerized by the moment.
"This is what we fight for this moment right here," said Jehud Presume.
"I am so proud of him," said his wife, Crystal. "He is a soldier and it takes a lot of strength to go out there and do what he did."
"Just getting back to the rhythm of civilian life and enjoying all the freedom and benefits I have now," said Johnny Darc, when asked what he was most looking forward to doing.
"When you were over there did you think about this moment?" Tongen asked Keith Alvarez.
"All the time," Alvarez responded. "That's what gave me the strength to come back."
"Since he left I have been waiting for this moment and I thought it would never come," said Alexandra Martinez.
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