Guardsmen return home a day early
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Sunday, March 18, 2012
3/18/12 at 5:37 AM
Read more about the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
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OKLAHOMA CITY - There was one place this St. Patrick's Day where the color green was nowhere near as popular as red, white and blue.
Family and friends welcomed home more than 260 members of the Oklahoma National Guard 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team on Saturday, the largest single group to return from Afghanistan and Kuwait since the beginning of the year.
A second group of soldiers was to arrive Sunday, but they came home a day early with Saturday's group.
More than 3,000 soldiers were deployed last summer, and about 300 came home last week in three groups. More will continue to arrive in Oklahoma through the end of the month.
"I don't even know how to describe it," Emily Bussear said of waiting for her fiance, Spc. James House II.
Upon reuniting with her and his mom and dad, the soldier said he was excited, happy and relieved.
In addition to his family, he missed his truck and his dog while he was away. He's eager to spend time with all of them, he said.
"It's the freedom to do what I want," he said.
Former University of Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, himself a veteran, addressed the troops. He welcomed them back and said that he understands the importance of being part of a team.
"There is no greater team than the U.S. Army," he said.
The 14 Oklahoma National Guard soldiers who died during the year-long deployment were also honored and family members of the fallen were recognized.
The large crowd at the Will Rogers Air National Guard Base carried balloons, homemade posters and miniature American flags as they waited eagerly for their soldiers, who were delayed by about half an hour.
"I'm ready for him to get here," Jessica Slack said, referring to her husband, Cpl. Dustin Slack. He was returning from this third deployment.
Their daughters, ages 7 and 5, waited for their dad in identical American flag dresses. The family is planning barbecues and other activities this weekend.
Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon told the soldiers everyone in the room was incredibly proud of them.
"We are so glad to have you back in red dirt country," she said. "Welcome home."
Original Print Headline: Guard members home early
Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378
Three-year-old Jacob Storm of Stillwater waits for family friends Spc. Sam Soutter of Tulsa and Anthony Gillilan of Stillwater in Oklahoma City on Saturday. ALONZO ADAMS / For the Tulsa World