Last Friday, students, faculty, and members of the community gathered at Gaines Field at Mattoon High School to welcome home returning troops of Alpha Company of the 634th Bridge Support Battalion. In honor of the event, students made banners of gratitude and thanks to decorate the field. The MHS band and color guard performed when the group of about 100 Illinois Army National Guard soldiers arrived shortly after 1:30 p.m. The soldiers had just returned from a year’s deployment in Afghanistan and were greeted by awaiting family and friends. Battalion leader Krista Jackley concluded the ceremony, and honored guests included Gen. John Phipps, Sen. Dale Righter, and Rep. Chapin Rose. The welcome home ceremony also paid homage to the fallen men and women of Sept. 11, 2001, as this year marked the tragedy’s eighth anniversary.