Sue Wells waited for a week. But, in the end, seven days of frustration turned to joy as she watched soldiers stepping off buses near a parade field at Fort Stewart, Ga.

Wells’ son, Army Spc. Slade Shadle, a 2003 Early High School graduate, was one of hundreds returning after a 12-month deployment to Iraq.

“It was definitely worth it,” Wells said. “When I saw those buses round the corner, it meant that he was finally home.”

Shadle may not be home for the holidays, however. But his family knows that at least his tour in Iraq is complete.

After receiving a phone call telling her of Shadle’s scheduled return date, Wells made arrangements with her employer to be away in order to greet Shadle upon his return.

“Slade called and told me what day he was coming home,” Wells said. “But when we got to Georgia, plans changed a little bit.”

Wells, accompanied by two companions, had already arrived in Georgia when she received another phone call from her son.

“He told me they were stuck somewhere and were not going to be back at the time he thought,” Wells said. “It was aggravating because I wanted to see him, but we just kept waiting.”

More delays resulted in the one-week stay, and at 11 p.m. on the last night, Wells, hoisting a Texas flag, saw her son for the first time in over a year.

“With all the soldiers getting off the buses, it was hard to tell who was who, but he said he spotted us because of the flag,” Wells said. “When I saw him, I was, wow.”

Shadle spent his end-of-tour leave with his family, and Wells noticed a difference in her son.

“I knew in my heart after 9/11 that he was going to join,” Wells said. “He wants better for everyone. When he came home, I noticed he had matured in so many ways. He had really become a man — a selfless man.”

Because he took leave immediately upon return, Shadle may not be with family during the Christmas holidays for the second straight year.

“That is kind of up in the air right now,” Wells said. “If he is not here, we will deal with it, but it is hard not to share that time with him — not have him here. Whatever happens, I am proud.”