BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Dozens of soldiers are back in Maryland and have been reunited with their families after spending nearly a year overseas.

During that year, a lot has changed at home.

There were heartfelt moments outside M&T Bank Stadium Tuesday as the roughly 140 Maryland Army National Guard soldiers saw their families for the first time since deploying to Poland last December to support NATO operations.

“I’m speechless,” PFC Carlos Chicas said. “It’s like so much emotions right now.”

Specialist Arpellah Honapoly was similarly speechless.

“I have no words to express it, I’m just happy,” Honapoly said.

As the coronavirus pandemic began to spread across the world, the soldiers saw a number of changes themselves.

“Because of the COVID, we were in lockdown constantly and we couldn’t leave the base,” Specialist Charisse Dejesus explained.

Now they’ve returned home to communities that have also changed a lot over the past 11 months.

“Leaving before the New Year, before the pandemic… we’re coming back to an environment that we’re just not settled in yet,” Commander Ryan Lundregan said.

As happens when soldiers are deployed, there were milestones missed back home.

“I’ve gotten married and he wasn’t there,” Marshalette Estep, the mother of a soldier, said.

Honapoly said they missed birthdays, a first day of school and other events, but many are glad to be home in time for the holidays.

“It wasn’t easy but it was well worth it, and I’m glad I served my country,” Chicas said.

A number of the returning soldiers are still quarantining in Texas but are expected to be home by Thanksgiving.

Stetson Miller

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