Charlie Company Returns With 8 Fewer Men

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Under the bright sunlight Sunday, people stood patiently, waiting for their heroes-- heroes who had been in Iraq since September, fighting with the Lansing-based Charlie Company, 1st battlion 24th regiment Marines.

And as they'll tell you, waiting for a hero isn't easy.

"It is overwhelming," says Sharon Lafon, mother of a marine in the Charlie Company.

Of course, the biggest worry for many people was that their marines wouldn't get a chance to walk through the homecoming doors.

"We're so very thankful our son is alright," Annette Schulz says, noting the company's deadly history. Her son is also a marine with the Charlie Company.

Since October, eight marines with the company were killed in action, and 16 were wounded: Marines like Napoleon Township's Brent Beeler, and Eaton Rapids' Troy Nealy-- friends who were killed a few days apart.

And you may remember the early homecoming of Lance Corporal Gordon Bloom, who was critically injured by eight bullets, but found the strength to walk off the plane when he arrived home.

"i've prayed for them, I've prayed for their families," says Schulz.

"i think the first thing I felt was extreme sorrow for their families," says Lafon. "I also worried about my son. Was it someone he was close to that died? I worried if he could handle that emotionally."

While the sacrifice of those marines remained in the forefront Sunday, there was also much reason to celebrate. Erin Shattuck was about to introduce her husband to their daughter Jocelyn for the very first time.

"She's excited, that's for sure," Shattuck says.

And with no immediate plans to head back to Iraq in sight, the Marines and their families will now rest, smile and breathe-- something many of their loved ones haven't been able to do since September.

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