Hundreds of soldiers return home for good

12:14 AM, Jan 6, 2014   |    comments
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Plant City, Florida -- Three-hundred soldiers returned home to their families permanently on Sunday afternoon in Plant City.

After a year-long deployment to Qatar, the Florida Army National Guard 3rd Battalion 116th Field Artillery Regiment was greeted by loved ones at the Plant City Strawberry Festival Grounds.

"I missed him so much," said Daniel Boyett when his dad, Lt. Col. Sean Boyett, arrived home.

"I missed my wife's cooking the most," said Lt. Col. Boyett.

Lt. Col. Boyett and his battalion were home just over a week ago with a four-day pass to celebrate the holidays with their families.  They had been stationed at Camp Shelby in Mississippi but were not able to fly home to their families. Governor Rick Scott challenged the community to raise $35,000 to bus the troops home to Plant City, where their families could pick them up for a couple days.

Related story: Florida National Guard troops arrive home for Christmas

It worked. The donations came pouring in and the troop came home. They returned to Camp Shelby for about eight days and now they are back for good.

"I just couldn't wait to see him again. My legs were shaking, my heart was racing, and finally he is home and I am so blessed, so happy," said Sally Boyett, Lt. Col. Boyett's wife, who had their 16-month-old girl, Sophia, in her arms as she kissed him hello.

Sgt. Michael Zelenenki's wife, Karma, and their 3-year-old son, Maddox, were also happy to have their family home and feeling complete again.

"It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I definitely feel it made me stronger, and us stronger," said Karma. 

"You can't explain it really. No, you can't. You talk to them on video chat while you're over there, but it is nothing like the real thing," said Sgt. Zelenenki. 

The governor and his wife both greeted the soldiers as they stepped off the buses. The governor welcomed the troops home in a ceremony that included the national anthem and a prayer of thanks for all the soldiers returning home safely.  

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