Last wave of Wisconsin Guard soldiers home from Iraq
WEST BEND - An emotional homecoming for 31 Wisconsin National Guard soldiers. They are the last members of the state's guard to return home from Iraq.
Members of the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment were away from their families for 51 weeks and are home just in time for Thanksgiving.
Captain Mark Sier, a pilot, walked off the bus. Minutes later, his daughter walked into his arms for the first time. One-year-old Carolyn was just five weeks old when her dad left for the deployment.
"A lot of love and support from my family and faith in God that everything's going to work out," Sier told TODAY'S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray.
This unit flew medical helicopters in northern Iraq.
"Great to have the fact that our soldiers served so well and, of course, they all came home safe," said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin.
Governor Scott Walker welcomed the soldiers at a ceremony Saturday morning.
"On behalf of Wisconsin, I want to thank these and all our National Guard Soldiers for their service," Walker said.
Hugs from family and friends also greeted members at the West Bend armory.
The West Bend service members are the state's last to serve in Iraq.
Lt. Col. Jackie Guthrie says now that they're back, members of the second battalion, 135th General Aviation Support Battalion, will "continue preparing for any missions, whether that be here in Wisconsin or anywhere in the world."
Nearly 10,000 soldiers and airmen have deployed in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn since 2003.
Nine Wisconsin National Guard soldiers died in Iraq since operations began in that country eight years ago.
The Wisconsin National Guard still has more than 350 soldiers and airmen on active duty, including approximately 60 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and about 180 heading to Kosovo for the NATO-led peace keeping mission there.