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Minnesota National Guard
Guardsman Welcomed into New Home

After members of the Minnesota National Guard A Co 2nd Combined Arms Battalion 136th Infantry were escorted through Bemidji Sunday with great fanfare, cheered on by thousands of people welcoming them home from Iraq, Guardsman Eric Alger had a second homecoming " at the Nymore house that is now his home His girlfriend, Emily McClung, took care of the real-estate transaction and has been sprucing up the house "We closed May 3 and she moved in a week later,"� Eric said

After having already seen some gigantic welcome-home signs at the John Glas Fieldhouse, where troops were dismissed in a ceremony, Eric had another sign to read on the door of his white house with black shutters: "Welcome To Your House"

The first message for Eric was from Emily, who had painted, "I (heart) you Alger"� on a cargo trailer owned by their new neighbors, Jon and Angela Casper, who had parked the trailer in the Slumberland Parking lot across from the fieldhouse "I hope he notices it," Emily said while waiting for the Soldiers to arrive

He did, and it came as quite a surprise, he said

As the Soldiers exited the bus to cheers from the crowd, there was another huge welcome sign, this one made by his sister, Patience

"I'm very glad to see everyone," Eric said after being dismissed "It was awesome"

"I'm just so excited," said Eric's mother, Brenda, joined by her other two children, Kalin and Shontel, and other family members "Life is good I'm the proudest mother here"

"We've been waiting so long for this," Brenda said "I can't tell you how miserable it's been"

But Eric's positive attitude made the wait so much easier to bear, she added

The approximately 200 Soldiers in A Company were deployed to Iraq in October 2005 for a year of service, but their deployment was extended

"We were at day 68 and we got extended," Eric said "It was a punch in the gut"

Eric's father, Henry, died when he was 3 "He would be so proud of him,"� Brenda said

Brenda said Eric is the perfect son "He has never talked back to me, he's always been respectful," she said "He's never done anything wrong in his life"

While the Bemidji Guard unit had no fatalities, the Detroit Lakes unit lost Greg Riewer of Frazee, Minn, and Joshua Hanson of Dent, Minn Eric wore two black bracelets to honor the memory of the fallen Soldiers and said other members of his unit also wore the bracelets

Brenda told Eric that she felt so fortunate he came home unhurt "I can't imagine what you guys have seen, Eric," she said

Outside his new home, Eric opened dozens of gifts Sunday afternoon, making up for one Christmas and two birthdays (he turned 21 on July 2), with some help from cousins Arlissa, 2, Michael, 3, and Thomas, 4, the children of his uncle and aunt, Jim and Lynn Morales Family and friends of both Eric and Emily were there to share in the celebration

Eric and Emily, both 21, have been together five years They went to junior and senior prom together and graduated from Walker-Hackensack-Akeley High School

"They've been there for each other through thick and thin," Brenda said "They're good kids " We love Emily"

Emily has been studying education at Bemidji State University, and on Aug 27 Eric will become a student, too, as he enters the law enforcement program at Hibbing Community College

"Being in Iraq, I think that's going to be a good experience for him in the field he's going into," Brenda said "He's going to be an awesome policeman"

Eric's grandma, Daisy Brown, was with family members Saturday at a powwow in Ball Club

"They all asked about Eric," she said, adding that they wished he could have been there

"Eric is a great kid," Daisy said "When I would say my prayers at night, I would put tobacco out for Eric, to be sure he'd be safe"

Laurie Swenson Bemidji Pioneer
Published Tuesday, July 24, 2007

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