As their plane rolled into RFD and met a sea of patriotic well wishers, nearly 100 soldiers in the 57th Transportation Battalion were stunned.
"I really support how you supported us in Iraq. I thank you. It means so much," Caroline Derue said.
"It makes you proud. Sometimes you think they forget about us over there. It makes you proud to be an American. Real proud," Willie Harris said.
Rockford's Vietnow members, along with Winnebago County's Salvation Army Band, made sure these out-of-state troops were treated like locals. Waving flags, spirited songs and the familiar site of the red, white and blue gave these teary eyed troops a emotion some described as being born again.
"They are Americans fighting for Americans. They are fighting for our freedom, so we are going to give them the proper welcome home."
As their plane refueled for the flight to Fort Lewis, Washington, the soldiers were provided free phone calls home, a chance to connect with loved ones, and profess their love in defending America.
"It seems so far away when you're gone, and you never expected that everyone would be out here. They make you feel like a superstar or something," Harris said.
"It's American soil. No difference. No dust. There's the shining sun. It's shining bright. We're all smiling," Derue said.
It’s indescribable joy and patriotism from these stateline supporters to troops they've never even met from Washington State.