March 13, 2008

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Returning troops given heroes' welcome

KINGSTON -- Members of the Army National Guard’s 104th Military Police Battalion were finally reunited with their families Thursday after serving in Iraq.

The unit was given a heroes’ welcome as buses carried members down Broadway in Kingston in the afternoon. The soldiers arrived at Kingston High School and then marched as few blocks north on Broadway to the city’s midtown neighborhood recreation center, where they were dismissed and met their families again.

“We accomplished what we set off to do. I’m proud of my unit and all the individuals in it,” said Sgt. Andrew Howarth, of Saugerties, after embracing his wife, Lisa. “Nobody was hurt.”

The unit was deployed to Ft. Bliss, Texas in June, 2007 before heading to Kuwait and Camp Bucca, Iraq. Once at Camp Bucca, the unit helped with base security and the coordination of more than 1,600 patrols in Southern Iraq.

Lisa Howarth, said she managed the best she could without her husband during his second tour of duty in Iraq.

“I just took one day at a time,” she said. ”If you think too much about it, it gets overwhelming.”

Kingston Mayor Jim Sottile was on hand to welcome back the troops and was grateful for their contributions while serving overseas.

“This is a great day for the families that are here,” said Sottile, as he was waiting with hundreds of others on Broadway for the unit to arrive home. “This is the first time we’ve recognized soldiers when they have come home. Hopefully we won’t have to do it any more. As we send our community members off to fight, we have to let them know we support them and love them.”

Heather Langley also waited with her nine-month-old son, Landon. Landon was seven days old when his father, Larry, was deployed last year. Other than a two-week furlough, Larry knows his son growing up through pictures.

“I hope he never goes back,” said Heather Langley, a reservist who has yet to be deployed. ““You always worry when they over in Iraq.”

Eli Bettencourt, of Ellenville, was on hand to welcome home Sgt. John Wenig, his brother-in-law. Bettencourt knew little of Wenig’s time in Iraq other than through a few messages.

“He said it was hot,’” said Bettencourt.

Despite the bits of communication, Bettencourt said he still worried about Wenig while he was deployed in Iraq.

“All those people dying over there, it could be anybody,” he said.

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