(WBIR-Oak Ridge) The Oak Ridge community is preparing a special surprise this week for a soldier who has been serving in Afghanistan.
Monday morning, Sergeant Stanley Neal Martin will return to his home in Oak Ridge after a nearly year-long deployment.
Sgt. Martin is spending the weekend, unplugged, with his family at a get-away in Pigeon Forge. Meanwhile, community members in Oak Ridge have been creating signs and decorating the town for his return.
Valarie Emery with the Oak Ridge Moms group got businesses to change their signs to read, "Welcome Home, Sgt. Neal Martin."
The Oak Ridge Fire Department and the Oak Ridge Police Department will also be involved with the welcome home.
"They didn't have a great homecoming when they landed in Minneapolis. His unit was not greeted well. So I think this is just going to be extremely touching for him," said Valarie Emery, with Oak Ridge Moms.
Emery is spearheading the welcome home celebration.
Sgt. Martin's wife, Julie Martin, was inspired by a Budweiser Super Bowl commercial called, "A Hero's Welcome." She wanted to do the same thing for her husband.
Sgt. Martin has served almost 17 years in the military, mostly with Army National Guard. This was his second deployment. Sgt. Martin is a part of the 251st Military Police Unit out of Lexington, Tenn.
Oak Ridge City Council Member Trina Baughn knows what it is like to have a loved one overseas. Her son has been serving in Afghanistan for the past four months.
"Operation Enduring Freedom has been going on since 2001. And we've lost 2,309 troops since it began. So any time one of our troops comes home, it is a big reason to celebrate," Baughn said.
Sgt. Martin is expected to arrive in Oak Ridge at 8:00 a.m.
Those who would like to support him and the family, can line up at New York and the Turnpike, New York and Vermont, Vermont and Venus, and along Venus.
Emery encourages people to be safe and stand in parking lots and sidewalks with signs and flags.