CARTER COUNTY, OK - A soldier who earned a Bronze Star for service in Afghanistan is now enjoying a greater reward, being back home again with his family.
Lt. James Hight witnessed a surprise caravan to welcome him home when he took the exit for home, hours after bus arrived in Oklahoma.
"The time drags on and you get used to being in Afghanistan and the daily grind," Hight said. "You wonder if the days are ever going to end so you can get back to life as you know it."
A year ago, he went to Camp Shelby, Miss., for training, then arrived at at Forward Operating Base Gamberi in eastern Afghanistan in the middle of summer.
"It got up to 120 degrees and then last month at Bagram, it was 10 degrees with a foot of snow on the ground," Hight said.
Hight was a logsitics planner with the 45th Infantry Brigade unit of the Oklahoma Army National Guard, getting supplies to troops around Laghman Province and also meeting some of the people.
"Obviously, they're different than Americans -- different values, different religion -- but for the most part, they want to see their country become better," Hight said. "We're there to try to teach them so they can secure their own country so we can bring our guys home."
Hight's neighbors greeted him after the 25-bike line of Patriot Guard volunteers stopped at the Marshall County line.
"He was just totally surprised as he came off Interstate 35 and saw us," Vietnam veteran Robert Wood said.
"He's over there fighting for us and he deserves the best welcome he can get," Patriot Guard volunteer Tracy Riner said.
Now he plans to enjoy some down time. "We missed a lot of time together, so we're just ready to be a family again," said Hight's wife Jennifer.
His daughter is ready to be outside with four wheelers, dirt, and dad's company.
"I''ve missed him really really much," said Kelsey Hight, 12. "I'm a daddy's girl. I like to work with my hands."
Hight says he now has a month off before reporting for duty in Norman, but at this post, he will be able to come home daily.