Tifton -- Before the soldiers arrived in Albany, they felt the support of south Georgians happy to have them home. Their convoy passed hundreds of supporters who lined the streets of Tifton to show their appreciation.
For the Rainwaters, it's like a summer family reunion that's come early. But the reunion can't start until the family's star player arrives. Sergeant First Class Scott Rainwater. His family made shirts to wear as the 48th Brigade comes into town. Scott's 7-year-old daughter Hannah took it a step further.
She made a poster. "Freedom and my dad, my hero."
One of many heroes the City of Tifton gathered to welcome Friday. The yellow ribbons you've been seeing all over our area are a sign of support for our troops serving in Iraq, but 26 soldiers in the 48th Brigade did not return. People here say this is also about supporting them.
"There are 26 black bows on it and we just wanted to say something to remind everybody of the 26 that wont come back tonight."
A fitting tribute to help us all remember, sometimes freedom isn't free. Scott's mother recalls how she made it while he was away. "Three prayers a day, a lot of faith and close family."
The soldiers were estatic as they arrived. It's a long time coming for this family.
"It's been a struggle for everybody. We've coped and we've missed him and it's just hard."
Hard times that ended as soon as Scott returned to the United States and home to Georgia.
The Rainwater family plans to donate the sign they made to the Armory. That way, they say troops can remember the 26 soldiers who paid the ultimate price while serving in Iraq.