With the simple invitation to greet their paratroopers, family and friends rushed onto the gym floor to hug and kiss their soldiers.
About 300 soldiers returned home Thursday to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage after being deployed for nearly a year.
Sgt. John Medlock was greeted by his wife and daughter. He says it's "awesome" to be home. The first thing he planned to do was change out of his camouflage uniform and take a shower. About 3,500 soldiers from the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division were deployed to eastern Afghanistan. Of those, 500 troops, including advance personnel, had previously returned.
About 2,700 Alaska-based soldiers remain in Afghanistan. They are expected back in Anchorage on additional flights over the next three weeks.