Moving photos captured the moment 140 U.S. soldiers were reunited with their friends and family members at Fort Drum on Monday after returning from Afghanistan.
The soldiers belonged to the 10th Mountain Division, which is considered one of the most deployed units in the U.S. Army.
Those troops, also known as the Polar Bears, served more than nine months in Afghanistan in the 4th battalion, 31st infantry.
They worked to secure Kabul’s Hamid Karzai Airport ahead of the United States’ final withdrawal ahead of last month’s final departure.
Friends and family were relieved to see the soldiers touch the ground safely at the military base in Jefferson County, upstate NY.
140 U.S. soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment 2nd Bridge Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division returned to U.S. soil on Monday after arriving at Fort Drum in New York
The soldiers were welcome home by friends and family members after being in Afghanistan for more than nine months
They were welcomed back with hugs and kisses from their children and significant others as they entered the base.
Celebratory signs and balloons along with other decorations were used to commemorate the work done in Afghanistan.
Soldiers from this unit were tasked with securing the airport in Kabul, including the day the bombing occurred on August 26. The unit did not suffer any casualties.
The Polar Bears also helped people escape out of the country on C-17 cargo planes.
Soldiers with the most deployed U.S. Army unit were relieved to be back with their loved ones
Tight hugs and kisses were received by the soldiers from the ‘Polar Bear’ unit after helping to patrol the airport in Kabul during the Taliban takeover
Despite being present for the suicide bombings on August 26, no casualties were reported and all the soldiers from the unit made it home safely
‘Everybody that left, returned,’ Major General Milford Beagle, Commander of the 10th Mountain Division.
‘Some of our brothers and sisters cannot say that. But all of the Polar Bears that left, returned.’
The safe return home comes as a sigh of relief after 13 U.S. officials were killed in the Kabul suicide bombings at the airport.
‘It’s just kind of the bitter, sweet feeling,’ Staff Sergeant Max Stonebraker told News 11.
‘Like, yes we are leaving Afghanistan, but at the same time we’ve lost a lot of friends and family over there.
‘It’s nice to be finally done with that mission set, but it’s, like I was saying, you have that bitter, sweetness that you kind of wanted to keep helping.’
The return of the Polar Bears comes as a relief after 13 U.S. officials were killed at the airport in Kabul
The experience has been described as bittersweet as some due to the relief of making it home but never forgetting the U.S. soldiers that were lost
A box of guns turned in by troops after arriving back home in Fort Drum
Approximately 100 U.S. citizens are still in Afghanistan, with some requesting to remain in the country.
The U.S. however is attempting to bring other Americans back to the country as Taliban fighters are allegedly attempting to violently retaliate against U.S. citizens and Afghan allies, according to Fox News.
Six charter flights containing several dozen Americans and around 900 Afghan allies have been held up from leaving Mazar-i-Sharif in the north of the country due to an ongoing State Department wrangle.
The State Department has been accused of trying to frustrate efforts by private rescuers to help those on the planes flee.
Overland rescues have also been mounted, with a Texas mother and her three children taken to an unnamed neighboring country by private rescuer Cory Bill.
Bill blasted the State Department for trying to take credit for that evacuation, and said they only stepped in to offer assistance after the hardest part of the evacuation was complete.