Christmas came early for Nivea Green this year.
All the 5-year-old wanted was the return of her mommy and daddy.
“We called her and asked her what she wanted for Christmas and she didn’t want any toys,” said Sgt. Jamall Green. “All she wanted was her parents home.”
Green and his wife, Specialist Chloe Green, spent the last year deployed to Kuwait with the South Carolina National Guard’s 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry, and were scheduled to return to Charleston in January. Instead, they arrived Saturday.
Their daughters, Nivea and her sister Naomi, 2, spent the year shuttling between their two sets of grandparents, Johnny and Malissa Hawkins of Goose Creek and Marilyn and Alphonso Gibson of Ravenel.
“We said, ‘If you can’t have your parents home, what do you want?’ and she said if we can’t come home, she’s coming to get us,” said Jamall Green.
She didn’t have to.
About two weeks ago, the Greens found out that they would be returning to Charleston before the holidays.
They told only their mothers that they were coming home.
“They tried to keep it from me,” said Johnny Hawkins, Chloe Green’s father. “My wife invited me to dinner tonight and I said, ‘I don’t eat out. Something’s wrong.’”
He was so worried that he was in tears before his wife finally told him the news. Instead of dinner, they headed to the National Guard Armory in Jedburg, where the Greens and about 40 other troops arrived after a long day that included a broken down bus and holiday traffic jams.
They were the first group of a total of about 800 soldiers who are scheduled to return by Monday night.
During their deployment, “Task Force Rifles” provided all administration, logistical, legal, training, security, communication, medical and religious support for three camps in northern Kuwait. They were commanded by Lt. Col. Frederick Pasley of Charleston.
Hawkins wasn’t the only one who got a surprise Saturday.
Jason and Scott Yancey of Moncks Corner and their wives conspired to keep their younger brother’s return a surprise from their parents.
Jason and his wife Sabrina, and Scott, his wife Alexandria and newborn son Jackson picked up Michael Yancey to head to the Celebrate the Season light display in Moncks Corner.
Their parents, Belinda and Randall Yancey, and younger sister, Elizabeth, were set to meet them there, for what they thought was a visit to the drive-through light show. Michael planned to jump out of the car to surprise them.
“We are going to hide him and they’re going to be behind us while he’s riding in the car,” Scott Yancey said. “It was his idea and we just helped him with it. We are really going to surprise Mom.”
Sgt. Antonio Brown, of Cottageville, was reunited with his wife Heather and 1-year-old daughter Alaya Saturday, after arriving home from a yearlong deployment to Kuwait. The National Guard soldier was part of 45 Guardsmen from the 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry that arrived in Charleston.×
From left, Sgt. Jamall Green and his wife, Specialist Chloe Green, hold and hug their daughters, 5-year-old Nivea and 2-year-old Naomi, after arriving home from a yearlong deployment to Kuwait. The two National Guard solders were part of 45 Guardsman from the 4th Battalion of the 118th Infantry that arrived in Charleston Saturday night.×
Sgt. Aaron Bittner, of Mount Pleasant, hugs his wife Kindall after arriving home Saturday from a year long deployment to Kuwait.×