By Suzanne Le Mignot

JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) — On the eve of the 10th anniversary of what was once called “The Forgotten War,” some local soldiers and their families are shedding bittersweet tears.

They know they are lucky because not all of their friends made it back alive, CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports.

It was a hero’s welcome for seven soldiers. Well-wishers lined the street, waving American flags.

“Seeing all those people really made me feel proud,” Army Spc Nicole Roper said.

Each soldier received hugs after exiting a white stretch limo in front of the Cantigny VFW in Joliet.

All of the soldiers are with the Forward Support Company, 863rd Engineering Battalion out of Darien. They’ve been away from their loved ones for a year, spending a total of 10 months in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Sgt. Sean West missed the holidays the most.

The soldiers reflected on the progress that’s been made since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan nearly 10 years ago.

“Schools have been built, roads — a lot has been done in 10 years,” Spc Michael Collins said.

The soldiers are also thinking of their two brothers who didn’t make it home.  Cpl James Chad Young was killed by and IED in November 2010. Cpl Justin Ross was killed in action in March.

“They will always be in our hearts,” West said.