MONROE COUNTY, Miss. (WTVA) — Members of the Houston-based 288th Sapper Company of the Mississippi Army National Guard returned home in September from a nearly yearlong deployment in Afghanistan.
Among those soldiers was Matthew Payne of the Nettleton area. He said the return at the Tupelo Regional Airport was more than an emotional event.
"It was very relieving at the same time," said Payne. "All those pressures, all the things that you worried about from day to day, I didn't have to worry about it anymore."
The pressures Payne had to deal with included finding roadside bombs.
As if that wasn't enough, there was just the uneasiness of being in Afghanistan.
"Over there, you don't just get in your vehicle and drive down to the store," said Payne. "We're out on the roads. We never knew who was ready to put a bullet in our back or who the enemy was."
Payne's military service can be seen today in the medals and certificates that he earned.
But those aren't the only reminders of his recent tour of duty. He had something else hanging on his dogtags that he wore while overseas.
"This is actually a good luck charm that a guy that worked with my wife he got in Vietnam in 1969. It's an old can opener.....I felt like it got him through it, so maybe it'd help me."
Payne also credits a lot of praying to getting him home safely.
His military service allows him to join his father and grandfather in being referred to as a veteran.