Published: Mar 25, 2013 1:17 PM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Family and friends welcomed home a local hero Sunday. Army Specialist Joel Black is back on leave after serving for the past year in Afghanistan.

After spending a year overseas, the 26-year-old Army Specialist got the homecoming of a lifetime.

"There's 2,000 guys that I came back with that didn't get this, and I don't feel like I did anything more than they did. I appreciate everything and it's amazing. I didn't expect anything like this," said Black.

His mother, Dianne Miller, said since her son was deployed 14 months ago, she's been counting the days and praying for this one.

"He deserves this. To think that he can come home, and that he's okay, and he's got all his fingers and all of his toes, and the feeling that I had when I was pregnant with him is the feeling that I have now...is coming back all whole," said Miller.

Veterans, strangers and close friends all crowded into the terminal to say thank you and welcome home.