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Soldier homecoming brings 9-11 full circle at airport

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There are tears of joy instead of sorrow this September 11th. Emotional hugs and warm embraces for a soldier's homecoming.

"It's amazing," said Army Specialist Mark Smith. "I liked it a lot."

There's a hero's welcome for Smith. He's coming home from Afghanistan.

"I feel like I accomplished a lot," he said. "I really do."

The Polo, Illinois, man is wrapping up a deployment. Family and friends understand the day's significance.

"I think a lot of young people of this generation decided they were going to do something for this country after 9-11," said Greg Smith, Mark's father.

12 years earlier, at about the same time in 2001, the Quad City Airport was quite a different place.

"They just said we were taking an emergency landing," said a passenger back then.

After the attack on America, flights had to land at the nearest airport. The Quad Cities became a safe haven for dozens of stranded passengers.

"It's sad, sick," remarked another passenger that day. "Sick that people have to take that kind of action."

Those uncertain times make Mark Smith's homecoming even more special. And coming on 9-11 seems to bring that tragedy full circle here in the Quad Cities.

Mark Smith was just 10 years old in 2001. But those images guided Mark and two brothers to military service and deployments.

"It's still a hard day," Smith said. "A lot of people lost their lives for a reason that we've been at war for a long time."

Back in the United States, it's a time for photos, smiles and home cooking. A proud family reunites.

"Today is more of a celebration for us," said his sister, Emily Hardin. "But it's also a remembrance."

Remembering with the Patriot Guard and rumbling back to Polo this 9-11.