Heartland Troops Return Home

Heartland Troops Return Home
By: Carly O'Keefe

Carbondale, IL - Cathi McClanahan stood with her family in the terminal of the Williamson County Airport. She and a handful of other family members stood staring out the window, waiting for a glimpse of a plane carrying her son.

"We're just so anxious to see him," said McClanahan.

Seconds seemed like hours as the plane carrying members of the 133rd Signal Battalion out of Carbondale and Sparta taxied up the runway.

This was the second McClanahan son to serve in Iraq and return home safely.

"You can't imagine what it's like to have two over there," said McClanahan. "We were the lucky ones. We get both of them back."

At the Carbondale Armory, Brett McClanahan out of the Marion Illinois National Guard unit waited to see his brother again for the first time since leaving Iraq in December. During the boys' overlapping deployment, Cathi says it was tough for the family back home. Specialist William McClanahan, who returned home Wednesday, says having his brother near enough to visit twice a week came as a comfort to him.

"You've got people with families on the other side of the country, and they don't get to see their loved ones and I had my brother, so it made it that much easier to adapt to what was to come," said William.

Through all the hugs, handshakes, tears, and kisses, a smaller McClanahan made sure not to miss a moment of his older brother's welcome home. The boys' father is hospitalized in St. Louis, fighting a very different battle than that of his sons. He suffers from a rare form of cancer.

"He wasn't able to be here for our son's arrival, so our other son is recording everything so he can see everything," said Cathi.

While the family will be able to review the celebration on tape, they say the best part is that both of their boys are now home.

"I'm glad that I can go to bed at night and know they're at home safe in their beds," said Grandmother Nancy McClanahan.