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Lieutenant returns from Afghanistan deployment

Family and friends were at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Friday morning to welcome back 1st Lt. Sarah Ray, right, from a six-month deployment in Afghanistan.

Family and friends were at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Friday morning to welcome back 1st Lt. Sarah Ray, right, from a six-month deployment in Afghanistan.

ALBANY, Ga. -- A base adjutant with Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany had a big surprise when she arrived at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Friday.

First Lt. Sarah Ray was greeted by family, friends and co-workers upon her return to Albany from a six-month deployment in Afghanistan.

"It was a huge surprise to see all the Marines here," she said.

During her deployment, Ray served as one of the representatives from various United States military branches advising members of the Afghan army on how to function independently.

In the course of working with other military branches, Ray said she really grew to miss her Marines.

"There is no substitute for the U.S. Marines," the lieutenant said.

Specifically, Ray had a hand in helping personnel better keep up with nutritional and retention trends for its roughly 130,000 active members.

"They are better organized, but we move in inches," she said. "I saw them go from not knowing how to account (for their members) to taking data and analyzing it.

"If I were called again, I would go in a heartbeat."

After getting off the plane, the first thing Ray said she wanted to do was get some pollution out of her system.

"I'm going to run and clear," she said Friday morning.

Several officials from the local Marine installation were at the airport to welcome the lieutenant back, including MCLB-Albany Commanding Officer Col. Terry Williams.

It might have gone without saying that he was happy to see Ray return safely. He also feels it is his responsibility to welcome returning Marines back home.

"It's very important to support the Marines that go forward," the colonel said. "I do believe in Marines taking care of their own."

David Ray, the lieutenant's father, retired from the Marines 10 years ago after serving 23 years. Consequently, he said he understands the colonel's mindset as much as anybody.

And he is proud of his daughter for what she is doing.

"I'm glad she had the opportunity to serve her country. She got an appreciation for the Afghan people, and this will forever change her," he said.

"When you're there, you're in God's hands. You don't worry about what might happen. Freedom is about going out and doing the right thing."