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Minnesota National Guard
Guardsmen set to come home soon

Families of area Minnesota National Guard Soldiers have worried and waited for nearly two years

Now they're planning public and private homecoming celebrations when more than 2,600 Minnesota National Guard members come home from Iraq in waves this summer

Several hundred of the Soldiers and their families are from this region

"It's been a long 22 months," said Capt Aaron Krenz, reintegration operations officer for the Minnesota National Guard "They are really, really excited to bring their Soldier home"

The Soldiers are expected back in the US in mid- to late July and will undergo demobilization at Fort McCoy, Wis, before returning home

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Community welcome-home ceremonies are being planned for the still-unknown date when buses with returning Soldiers will arrive in Moorhead and other area cities

But Guard families are also making preparations closer to home They are excited, nervous and " above all " ready, both family members and military personnel said

"I think a lot of people are in a nesting mode right now," said Krista Colemer, leader of Moorhead's family readiness group, a support network for families of the deployed Soldiers Her husband is deployed "They're trying to get their houses organized, and they're planning vacations " all that stuff we do"

Nancy Purdon, whose 25-year-old son, Jeff, is one of the returning Soldiers, said she's trying to finish her basement in case her son wants to have a celebration

"We're leaving it up to him," the West Fargo woman said "We hear so many varied stories about the guys' reactions when they do get back We don't want to overwhelm him or push him into anything"

She plans to have some good steaks on hand, just in case

That's an approach Krenz recommends

Families should discuss with their Soldier what kind of homecoming celebration to plan " and when to have it, he said

"One Soldier's going to be an exact 180 from another one," Krenz said

Daniel Ward's family may hold a bonfire for him and a couple of fellow Soldiers after they return

His sister, Beth Davis, who would host the party at her rural Glyndon, Minn, home, said they'll settle the details after 25-year-old Daniel returns

"We've kind of delayed planning until we see the whites of their eyes," Davis said "Last time we started planning it got delayed four months"

Daniel's mother, Jean Ward, is so emotional about his upcoming return that she burst into tears when asked about it after a recent family readiness group meeting

"I go through a lot of tears," said Ward, of Glyndon, wiping her eyes

Welcome-home ceremonies

There will be welcome-home ceremonies when Minnesota National Guard Soldiers return to area cities from Iraq sometime in the coming weeks

The Moorhead ceremony is being organized by the local family readiness group and Minnesota National Guard staff members at the Moorhead Armory

Plans are still being worked out, but Kimberly Biby, secretary of the family readiness group, asks Moorhead residents to decorate their yards for the homecoming, especially those on Eighth Street

Buses carrying the Soldiers are expected to take that route through town, said Maj Timothy Kemp, battalion officer in charge for the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry

They're expected to be taken to the Moorhead Armory, where a public ceremony is in the works, Biby said

"We would love to have it overflowing to the parking lot," she said

More coming home

More than 2,600 Minnesota National Guard Soldiers are returning to the US after 16 months in Iraq

Soldiers in this region are expected to arrive at Fort McCoy, Wis, in mid- to late July Most are from the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry

By Andrea Domaskin, In-Forum, July 5, 2007
Source: www.in-forum.com

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