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Minnesota National Guard
Tribute to the troops

With the long months of separation behind them and after some time to readjust, it was time for members of the Army National Guard 2-136th to celebrate

The community turned out in full force - approximately 2,700 - at the VFW Saturday to dance, dine and just be happy the troops are home. Before the party started, approximately 300 Soldiers and their families gathered to eat and reunite with those who had become their surrogate families. During the months of separation from their loved ones, families left behind formed a tight bond.

"It's a good thing, seeing families we haven't seen for two months, after we spent two years together," said Nancy Purdon, whose son, Jeffrey Purdon, was gone for 22 months "The support definitely helped a lot Someone to talk to was only a phone call or e-mail away"

"I think it's great that they waited long enough for Soldiers to reconnect with their families before having a celebration to welcome them home," said Judy Clark, whose son, Kristopher, was wounded overseas and earned a Purple Heart

Kristopher helped plan Saturday's party

"It was a lot of work and it's great seeing it all come together,"� he said "It's going to be a good night"

The celebration was the culmination of 22 months of waiting for Crystal Hellkamp and her husband, Donavan Hellkamp Although it wasn't easy, Crystal and their three children learned how to play the waiting game

"We just lived day by day and prayed for the next holiday to be over so it would be closer for the time for him to come home,"� she said

For some, it was a night of triumph After encountering a a roadside bomb in Fallujah that resulted in a broken back, Adam Drechsel was able to walk into the VFW and enjoy the evening with everyone else He was overseas for six months before being wounded

"I was glad to come home,"� he admitted, "but I was disappointed to have to leave the guys behind"

That he is able to walk does not surprise him

"The first thing I made sure to do was wiggle my toes,"� he said

Since their July return, Soldiers have worked at getting on with their lives After 16 months in Iraq, what Aaron Johnson noticed most when he returned was, "How clean it is There's so much dust over there I missed the cooler weather"

Johnson is back at his job with UPS in Fargo

"Driving vehicles has been hard to get used to again, and being in crowded places,"� he said "It's the mindset you get used to, that you always have to be on your guard"

The event was capped off by a presentation of medals to the following Soldiers: Sgt Brian Kutter received the Army Achievement Award; Spc Kristopher Clark, Army commendation; Sgt Louis Karsnia, bronze star; and Lt. Col. Stroud, Purple Heart

By Susan Larson (Contact) | The Daily Journal
Article source: www.fergusfallsjournals.com

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