JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) — There were tears of joy and sighs of relief in Joliet on Sunday as more than three dozen Marine reservists were welcomed home from Afghanistan.

As CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports, friends and family had been praying for their safe return.

They were running into each other’s arms in an instant; and with each embrace, each tear shed and each pat on the back, there was a story of sacrifice and love.

“I still can’t believe that I’m home. It’s hard to imagine just a couple of weeks ago I was in Afghanistan and I’m back here in the states,” Cpl. Chad Willis said.

While Willis was away, his wife gave birth to their daughter, Claudia. Sunday was his first time seeing his daughter.

“I can’t describe it. I’m overwhelmed right now. It’s amazing,” Willis said.

Cpl. Tony Moro posed for pictures with his grandmothers and stood beside the neighbor boy kid he’s known for years.

Moro said “it’s awesome” to be home.

His neighbor, Patrick Kuczwara said, “He’s like a brother.”

Moro’s grandmother, Elaine Rozzano, said “We waited so long and prayed for him every night and he came home safe.”

Moro and the nearly 40 Marine reservists who returned home on Sunday spent most of the last nine months in Afghanistan on a counter-insurgence mission. That meant gaining the confidence of locals. In the process, Moro was shot at several times.

“The Taliban, we’d go in the wrong area sometimes and talk to the wrong people, or even talk to the right people and find out where they are. Sometimes you’re just not always in the best area and get surprised,” Moro said.

Cpl. Ryan Bizahaloni’s wife traveled here from Ohio with son Nolan, who was born just before his deployment. For Bizahaloni, family life is no longer a dream.

“I actually feel like I’m familiar with something … as opposed to feel like I have to be more aware about everything else. I actually feel like I can relax for once,” he said.

For nearly a decade, the country has debated whether the dangers faced by those on the front lines were worth the risk. From the home front now, Bizahaloni offered his perspective after serving in a war zone.

“At the end of all of this, there’s a greater good,” he said.

Cpl. Brandon Jardine said now that he’s home, it’s time for him to “go home, relax and then just get back to a normal life.”

The reservists left Afghanistan two weeks ago and were first flown to a base in Okinawa before coming back to the U.S. Several in the group were on their second tour of duty, having served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

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