After four years of active duty and two tours of duty in Iraq, U.S. Marine Sgt. Tommy King Jr. has returned home to Waxahachie.

A 2003 graduate of Waxahachie High School, King enlisted in October 2003 and quickly promoted through the ranks, serving in the 2nd Battalion 5th Marine Regiment Weapons Company in Camp Pendleton.

To celebrate his return home, King’s father and stepmother, Tommy Sr. and Becky King, along with several aunts and uncles, held a party in his honor Sunday afternoon at Water Street Baptist Church.

“It’s a very proud moment to have him home, knowing that he was in harm’s way protecting our country,” said Carolyn Bright, King’s aunt and one of the family members who helped organize the party.

“I’m very proud of him,” said Marie Harris, another aunt and co-organizer. “He’s put his life on the line for our lives and our freedom.”

About 40 family members and friends were in attendance to welcome King home.

“I’m glad to have him home,” said Tommy Smith, King’s best friend. “We’ve all been worried about him, especially this last trip.”

“I’m very proud of him and I’m glad he is home safely,” said King’s sister, Jaclyn King, whose daughter, 2-year-old Janyce Brians, wanted to join in on all the conversation.

“I love my Tata,” said Brians, using the nickname she gave her Uncle Tommy.

“Speaking as a former sailor,” said Howard Bright, King’s uncle and Water Street Baptist Church associate pastor, “I would like to say I am very proud of him for offering himself for each and every person in this country by serving in Iraq.”

“He has completed four years of active duty,” said Tommy Sr., noting it was his idea to have a celebration to honor his son’s return home. “But Becky did all the work.”

Also in attendance were King’s 81-year-old grandmother, Cealie King; King’s cousins, Connie and Betty Wade; and - in a surprise visit -Waxahachie Mayor Joe Jenkins, who read an official proclamation honoring his service to the country and proclaiming Dec. 9 as “Sgt. Tommy King Jr. Day.”

King, who arrived in Waxahachie late Friday night, attended church on Sunday prior to the party.

“It feels great. It’s nice to be home,” said King, who said his family - his dad, in particular - was what he missed the most while away.

“They’re not going to let me go anywhere,” said King when asked about his future and his plans to reside in Waxahachie. He said he is considering becoming a police officer ultimately, but wants to get a job of some kind as soon as possible.

As to what he attributes as the reason he advanced up the ranks so quickly, King, whose last assignment included having 27 Marines under his supervision, said, “I was always doing my job, doing my best and showing leadership.”

King made many friends while in the Marines, three of whom became really close.

“I have three friends that call every night,” said King of the calls he’s received from fellow Marines since returning home.

King’s service following boot camp in San Diego, Calif., included 15 months in Iraq, including two tours of duty, the second of which he voluntarily extended by two months, and seven months in Japan. The remainder of his four years of service was spent at Camp Pendleton in California.

E-mail Jennifer at jennifer.howell@waxahachiedailylight.com.