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Flags waved, tears were shed, hugs were shared and cheers and laughter filled the air as Pfc. James C. Edwards III reunited with longtime friends and family at Shallotte Electric on Oct. 21.
Edwards returned home from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan. He reached Shallotte shortly after 4:30 p.m. It was an emotional day for Edwards and his parents, Jimi and Cindy Edwards.
“I can’t begin to describe the emotions,” Cindy said. “I am ecstatic and thankful.
“I really couldn’t prepare myself for it. I spoke with him in Germany right before he came home, but I didn’t know what time he would get here or anything like that.”
James Edwards said he was happy to be home, but sad to leave Afghanistan because he was there for a cause that was worthwhile. He is looking at a possible redeployment in August.
“Everything’s still the same here,” Edwards said. “It’s going to take a little getting used to being back. I’m glad everybody is still the same and still here.”
Edwards, 19, was born and raised in Brunswick County. He joined the Army after graduating from West Brunswick High School.
Among the things Edwards said he missed the most while he was deployed were his family, his motorcycle, North Carolina sweet tea and fresh seafood.
“I couldn’t wait to see water, trees and grass,” he said. “They are old comforts of home.
“What I wanted the most while I was there was always cold water and shade. I got cold water, but there was no shade.”
Edwards said all he saw while deployed was sand — and plenty of it. In fact, when he arrived in Afghanistan, he was greeted by a dust storm. As he was leaving, he found himself in a yet another dust storm.
The celebration at Shallotte Electric was a big surprise for Edwards.
Cindy, a long-time employee there, said her son grew up in the store. She said the focus of the business is on family and employees were permitted to bring their children to work with them.
As a child, Edwards spent his summer vacations and more with his extended family at Shallotte Electric.
As Edwards arrived in Shallotte on Oct. 21, a “Welcome Home” banner and American flags adorned the exterior of the business. Shallotte Mayor Sara McCullough, Town Administrator Albert Hughes, and members of the police and the fire departments were all on hand to welcome him.
McCullough presented Edwards with several mementos from the town as she thanked him for his service with a hug and a handshake.
Edwards is based at Fort Bragg, near Fayetteville. He said he plans to spend as much of his free time in Shallotte with his family and friends as possible in the coming months.
As for eating fresh seafood, riding his motorcycle and seeing his family?
“It didn’t take him long to do all three,” Cindy said.
“I’m just happy to have him back in the States,” his father Jimi said.
Sam Hickman is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or email@example.com.