By Bill Hudson

MONTICELLO, Minn. (WCCO) — Written on homemade signs and showing in their faces, little ones were clutching toys, their little legs squirming in anticipation.

Everyone who packed into the National Guard armory in Monticello was eager for the arrival of someone far more important than Santa.

“It’s been really a rough year, emotionally it’s been hard,” Jessica Honsa, wife of a deployed soldier, said.

So wrapped in flurries and cold Minnesota air, the 123 soldiers of the 257th Military Police Company were finally safely home. After landing at MSP airport they’d load into three charter busses for the short trip to Monticello.

It’s the present that 6-year old Aden Honsa never expected, when his dad burst through the gymnasium door.

“I was really excited, really happy,” he said.

Thomas Honsa is among the Minnesota National Guard MP’s who were deployed for guard duty at Guantanamo Bay.
When he left 11 months ago, his daughter Ava wasn’t talking.

“You miss a lot of milestones for sure, but we can make up for it,” Jessica said.

Duffels in tow, the fatigue-clad soldiers soon spilled through the doors to a thunderous ovation, and into the arms of loved ones.
Hugs have never felt better.

Says a smiling Thomas Honsa, “Best gift ever, definitely,” Thomas Honsa said.

Sergeant First Class Gary Leshovsky finally gets to touch and hold his new grandson, born just weeks ago.

“Now I get to see him for the first time and it’s good,” Leshovsky said. “He looks at me and smiles.”

Merry Christmas, soldiers – the best presents in life don’t always come with ribbons and bows.

Bill Hudson