The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

30 local soldiers welcomed home

Army Spc. Weston McKee can finally get back to work on building his new house.

McKee is one of 30 local National Guard soldiers dismissed from duty during a ceremony Wednesday after being deployed in Iraq for 10 months. He and his girlfriend, Lindy Freeman, the couple can resume plans to build a home together in Ottumwa after reuniting at the Johnson County Fairgrounds.

“I just want to go home right now,” said McKee, dressed in uniform and looking anxious to spend time with his family. “We get three months off before we have to report again, and I just want to hang out and work on building our house.”

More than 200 people greeted the troops on their return to Iowa City, with teary-eyed kids and spouses hugging soldiers as they prepare to re-enter civilian life.

Last fall, members of the 1168th and 1133rd Transportation Companies joined to form the 3368th Heavy Equipment Transportation Company. After a month of pre-mobilization, the group departed on Oct. 30, 2008, for their mobilization station at Fort Bliss, Texas, for training before joining Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Some of the troops landed in Kuwait on Dec. 20, 2008, and the rest joined them on Christmas Day.

The battalion transported various military supplies to troops while driving heavy equipment transporters throughout Iraq during their mission, said Capt. Saralee Sickles.

After months of aiding soldiers in combat, the troop arrived in Wisconsin on Oct. 23, where they demobilized.

Around 300 National Guardsmen were welcomed home with ceremonies in five different locations across Iowa on Wednesday.

The troops must now wait for word on if they will be deployed to the Middle East again in 2010.

Among those welcoming the Iowa City soldiers home was Iowa City Mayor Regenia Bailey.

“For your courage and your service, we thank you and welcome you home,” Bailey said.

Ginger McCrabb came from Topeka, Kan., to meet daughter Sgt. Lezlie Aldrich.

“I always worried about her,” McCrabb said. “Now my family is back together again, and she’s safe at home.”

After being reunited, Aldrich turned her focus to one thing: eating some sorely missed home cuisine.

“Dinner. That’s about all I’m worried about,” the Muscatine native said.

The rest of the soldiers found friends and family members in the crowd, most of them quickly dispersing after a few tearful minutes.

Putting home building plans aside for a moment, McKee said he’s anxious to be back on American roads after spending the past 10 months driving trucks in the Middle East.

“I missed riding my Harley,” he said. “In the next day or so, I’ll definitely be on my bike.”

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