Local Guardsman welcomed back home

As the country celebrated Independence Day this weekend, one local family welcomed home their own hero.

Waygon Sanders returned from Afghanistan last Wednesday after spending nine months deployed with the Army National Guard. Sanders served as commander of an engineering company, which worked to destroy and retrograde equipment to meet requirements of the troop withdrawal.

Sanders said the weather is what surprised him the most about Afghanistan. He was stationed in the mountains, so he dealt with a cycle of extreme seasons. When he arrived, there were about three to four feet of snow and as he was leaving the highs were cycling into the 90s.

“For a good ol’ Mississippi boy to get into three feet of snow and stay in it was very taxing,” he said.

Sanders previously had been deployed to Iraq from 2009 through 2010. While in Iraq, he was in the desert. However, even though the climate was different, the cultures of the two countries were similar.

Sanders joined the National Guard when he was 17. He said the two main reasons were patriotism as well as the financial benefits of joining.

“The National Guard was a way where I could support my country and pay for college,” he said.

Sanders also said he was inspired to join because of his father’s own service during the Vietnam War.

Although back stateside, Sanders has managed to stay busy since his return. Thursday night, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, where Sanders serves as youth pastor, hosted a welcome back reception. He also packed up and moved to a new house in West Lincoln.

Sanders and his wife, Rochelle, have a 3-year-old daughter named Fiona.

Although his highlight has been being able to see his family again, he has also been thankful for indoor plumbing.

Sanders also expressed gratitude of all the prayers and care packages from churches and community members.

“I really appreciate all the prayers and sending stuff over,” he said. “It always comes at the right time.”