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Daddy's coming home tonightPosted Friday, December 5, 2008, at 6:14 AM
It's been a week of high emotions for those associated with the return of National Guard members from Alpha Company of the 1-151 from the combat zone in Iraq.
Our citizen soldiers from Greene, Sullivan, Knox, Owen, Morgan, Monroe, Daviess, Martin, Dubois and other Indiana counties assigned to Alpha Company -- The Avengers based in Linton -- are finally home safe and sound.
There were no war casualties -- thank God.
No limbs were lost and few injuries were sustained. -- thank God.
Alpha Company commander Lt. Andrew Wood, from the Coal City area, echoed those sentiments in some emotional parting words to his unit and those who gathered to celebrate on Tuesday night in Linton.
"These guys traveled on the most dangerous routes in Iraq and we suffered no loss of life. No loss of limb and the good Lord has blessed us and I thank him for that," Lt. Wood said with his voice cracking with caring emotion.
There were some close calls for the Avengers -- who twice had vehicles in their escort convoys hit by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) as they carried out their assigned mission with precision, professionalism and skill on some of the most dangerous roads in Iraq.
A few members of Alpha Company -- less than 10 -- have not come home yet. They are being treated for some war-related injuries in Georgia and at Camp Atterbury and they have not yet been released as part of the demobilization process.
They remain in our thoughts and prayers.
We are all indebted to our National Guard members. They did their part as volunteer citizen soldiers to preserve the freedoms we all enjoy as Americans. They did their part to fight global terrorism on the ground, in the trenches, in harm's way.
They left their own families for a year -- what else can we say except thank you.
Few words could describe the utter joy, blessed relief, patriotic pride, experienced by these soldiers and those important loved ones left back home in Indiana to carry on and hold together the family units of Alpha Company.
The answer to more than a year of prayer came early last Friday morning for the family, friends, loved ones and the community members who have stood by our citizen soldiers during this latest deployment.
It was truly a blessing to have been part of the joyous homecoming I witnessed in a jam-packed aircraft hanger at Stout Field in Indianapolis shortly after 4 a.m. last Friday. Hundreds crowded into Building 9 to be there to watch about 125 members of Alpha Company march in together with about 300 other members of the 76th Brigade who shared their flight home.
The scene was repeated on a different scale on Tuesday evening on the roadways of Greene County.
More than a three dozen fire trucks, ambulances and law enforcement vehicles screamed with sirens blasting and emergency lights flashing from the Greene County line on State Road 67 to State Road 54 and into Linton.
When the homecoming convoy reached the National Guard Armory, they were greeted by a large American flag that was waving between aerial units from the Jasonville and Bloomfield fire departments.
Wow, what a sight it was to see.
Happy family members -- young and old -- held up hand-crafted signs, waved and shouted as the buses carrying the Guardsmen pulled into the driveway.
These hometown heroes were marching home from war and the community was elated to greet them.
It wasn't a political scene for these soldiers and families. It was not a time to comment on the merits or perils of the war effort in Iraq.
It was a time to enjoy.
Inside the Armory, loud shouts and applause erupted when the soldiers banged on a closed overhead door. It slowly opened and in marched the Avengers in formation.
After some brief and encouraging words from the unit's commander Lt. Wood, the Guardsmen were released to be with the families -- finally.
He urged the men of Alpha Company to forget about the things they had witnessed in Iraq thousands of miles from hometown Indiana.
He told them to cherish and get reacquainted with their families who bravely fought the battle back home by holding together the family unit and took care of all of the business affairs.
He cautioned them against drinking and driving and reminded them that there were actually traffic laws on Indiana roadways -- unlike they had experienced for the last nine months while serving boots on the ground in Iraq.
He told them to call a Guard buddy on the telephone over the holidays and never forget the friendship bonds they had developed with their other Avenger buddies during this deployment.
As the welcome gathering was dispersing and the soldiers were starting to parade out of the Armory with the families, everything came into perspective from the words uttered by a small child -- Lt. Wood's daughter.
She looked up at her tall Dad -- who had been away from his home with the troops for months -- and said simply, "Daddy are you coming home now?"
The young commander looked down with his eyes glistening with tears and said, "Yes, Daddy's coming home with you tonight."
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