One year ago, Arkansas' 39th Infantry Brigade returned from Iraq after a year at war.
We followed many of those soldiers from their deployment to their training in Fort Polk, Louisiana, and their homecoming at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Alyson Courtney revistited one of those soldiers now faced with the decision to re-enlist or get out of the National Guard.
We first met Monica Williams in February 2005. She was raising a one-year-old son, Austin, alone because during most of his life, her husband was fighting the war in Iraq. But just a month after that interview, the Williams family was reunited in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Moments after seeing his family, Sgt. Williams said, "It’s a challenge everyday and we made it through it."
Now, fast forward a year.
Monica Williams says, "You would never know that Austin and Jamie had ever had that 15 months apart. You would never know that."
But, Sgt. Williams admits it took several months to get back into the swing of things back home in Prescott. "I remember about the four or five month mark from being home, it finally felt like I could rest," says Jamie.
Even though he's now thousands of miles away from the fighting, the war is never far from his mind. "I think it's going a lot better than what's being reported, unfortunately," he says. "You see a lot of dramatic video coming out of Iraq instead of real world stories."
Williams says he's proud of his mission and what troops are continuing to do in Iraq. So supportive, in fact, just hours before this story aired on Today's THV, after months of soul searching, Williams decided to re-enlist in the national guard for six more years, knowing he'll likely have to leave his family again.
"In the end I just sat and I was thinking about it and I don't think I’ve done everything I wanted to do for my country, yet," says Jamie. "I still have a lot to give back."
Despite the challenges of being a soldier's wife, Monica says she supports her husband's courageous decision to re-enlist. "There is a possibility that Austin and I will once again be by ourselves, but we've done it once," says Monica. "The first deployment is the hardest. We can do it again. There is a chance I could lose my husband and that's a hard thing to think about. We put it in God's hands."
Jamie says, "We can do it. We can make it. Iraq was my second deployment, our first, but we handled it well and I believe in what I’m doing."
Sgt. Williams says he made several Iraqi friends during his time at war and still communicates with them through email. He says they also feel things are going well in the country and are thankful for the American troops.
There is no official word yet on whether the 39th might be deployed to Iraq for a second time.