HUNTSVILLE, Ala., (WHNT) -- A Huntsville soldier is home after nearly a year in Afghanistan and for his family, his homecoming is a celebration of the support they have gotten during the long months their son was away.
The Patton family crowds the arrivals gate at the airport in Huntsville. They're clutching bright signs and little American flags.
"He came and told us two or three years ago he wanted to be a combat medic," Corporal Martin Patton's father Rip Patton says.
Corporal Patton is in the U.S. Army. Deployed overseas for seven months, he's finally returning home.
"We have been a little nervous, but mostly we have felt very confident he was doing what he was supposed to do," Lois Patton says. "We've just had great support from our family and friends and just feel like he has been supported through prayers."
Rip and Lois Patton say the prayers and support they've gotten from their family and friends have been the pillar they've leaned against while their son was away.
One of five boys, Corporal Patton has missed the holidays and most of the year with his family. That's about to change, though.
They all peer anxiously down the walkway where a large plane is being unloaded, one passenger at a time.
Finally, they see him.
Then it's a flurry of long overdue hugs and kisses.
"I didn't know I was going to be home today until Wednesday," Corporal Patton says.
It's later that evening, and the Patton home is bursting with people. The same people who helped the Pattons, merely by their wishes and prayers.
"My mom's been calling everybody to set everything up so I could have this open house to come home to," Corporal Patton says. "It's definitely a pretty big surprise."
Corporal Patton says seeing that many people turn out to wish him well on his homecoming is overwhelming.
"It makes me feel loved among everything else," Corporal Patton says. "I got messages on Facebook while I was gone like, 'we're praying for you, we hope the best for you, we can't wait for you to come home', everything like that. This is more the physical side to that. It's more than just a message, it's actually seeing all that support right there and it's pretty amazing."
His mother and father agree.
"Just having the support of folks praying for him is a real important thing," Rip Patton says.
It was a long several months, but Corporal Patton's mother and father say it is worth it because their son is doing something they are proud of, and it's something Corporal Patton loves.
Having the support back in Alabama, he says, makes it easier.
"Just knowing I have that much prayer support, when you're sitting over there in Afghanistan, it really does make a difference knowing you have that kind of support back home," Corporal Patton says.