friends and community supporters turned out in force Saturday morning
to welcome home Charlie Battery as they returned from a year-long
peacekeeping mission in Egypt
Supporters lined U.S. 150, honking horns and stepping out in the cool, rainy weather to salute Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery of the Illinois National Guard as they made their journey from the Quad City International Airport to the National Guard Readiness Center on Linwood Road in Galesburg.
A large group of family members, friends and supporters gathered in the readiness center gym for a ceremony to honor the returning soldiers.
Welcome home packets were given to children of the soldiers.
“We planted flowers in the flower beds outside of the readiness center and put up yellow ribbons and bows last Saturday to prepare for their return home,” said Karen Sornberger, co-leader of the Family Readiness Group. “We also put up yellow bows along Carl Sandburg Drive today in the rain.”
“Keeping the families informed is our biggest mission,” said Sornberger.
State Rep. Don Moffitt, R-Gilson, attended to show his support for the local Guard unit.
“It is a very emotional day, but these are good emotions,” said Moffitt.
Ashley Heeren, who’s husband, Sgt. Matthew Heeren, returned to his family after a year in Egypt, was joined by her daughter, Breanna Heeren.
“This is kind of special for us. We have two special needs children, and Breanna had surgery last week,” said Ashley,
“June 7th we are going to Disney World. It will be our first family vacation together,” said Ashley, who held a sign honoring her husband.
Also greeted by a large group of family members was Spc. Jacob Stokes, who, upon his return, was able to meet his 4-day-old niece for the first time.
“His mom, dad, aunts, cousins, nieces, we are all here waiting for him. It has been a long time,” said his aunt, Donna Stokes.
Brandi Ripka, who’s husband, Brian Ripka, was deployed while their twin son and daughter were only 7 months old, leaving Brandi to raise the two infants on her own until his return.
Now the twins, almost 2 years old, as well as Brandi, were moments from being able to hug their father and husband for the first time in nearly a year.
Several supporters and eagerly waiting family members held signs, and anticipation rose as the soldiers got closer to home.
The long-awaited moment came at 10:05 a.m., when the soldiers began to walk into the gym of the readiness facility.
A short ceremony was conducted and the soldiers were officially dismissed to be with their families.
1st Sgt. Joseph Bratcher was one of the 88 soldiers who returned home Saturday morning.
“We had a great group of officers, outstanding soldiers; they all made our time spent in Egypt go by very quickly,” said Bratcher.
“We trained for two months in Ft. Lewis, Washington, and worked with 10 different nations on the peacekeeping side of the mission. We got to see a lot of interesting things,” said Bratcher.
“It’s good to be home,” said Pvt. Don Daniels. “I’m glad to get to see things that are green instead of just things that are tan.”
All of the 88 soldiers deployed in the Charlie Battery returned home safely. During the short ceremony, the soldiers heard what they, as well as their families, had waited a year to hear: “Mission accomplished, you are dismissed.”
To participate join us at EGYPT FORUMS
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