By Carol Schreiber
Review Staff Writer
“Short, sweet and as intimate as it can get” was the welcome home ceremony for Bravo Battery of the 1-125th field artillery unit of the Minnesota National Guard.
The short welcome home ceremony was held at the Fairmont Armory on Monday, July 23, and the soldiers were released to their families.
The outpouring of support was evident as hundreds of family members and friends were on the lawn of the armory, waiting the soldiers return.
Fire trucks from throughout the area brought the soldiers through Fairmont and to the armory. Guardsmen rode atop fire trucks and EMS vehicles, many from their hometowns. Towns from A to Z, or at least Alpha to Welcome, and many more towns in southwestern Minnesota were represented by the nearly 30 vehicles that carried the hundred National Guardsmen through Fairmont and to the armory.
Arriving at the armory, the soldiers were greeted by signs, flags and yellow ribbons as well as the cheers of family and friends.
Soldiers were given time to be with their families at the armory. Hugs, kisses and tears were shared before gathering for a short ceremony.
Fairmont Mayor Randy Query welcomed the troops with the words, “Thanks to all of you and your families, and welcome home Red Bulls!”
“We are a blessed nation and a blessed people,” said Captain Don Kramer. “Everyone has sacrificed a lot.” Kramer spoke of missing two of everything -- birthdays, anniversaries, planting and harvest seasons and duck hunting seasons. Weddings and births were also missed by the Red Bulls, as they have spent the past 22 months away from their families.
Despite missing two of everything, Kramer pointed out what the soldiers have gained. “We have bonds and
friendships not formed in any other way. We’re all brothers and sisters now.”
Kramer spoke of the lush fields the soldiers seen as they took the long bus ride from Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. “And there was nothing blowing up by the side of the road,” he added, much to the delight of all present.
The Fairmont VFW adopted the Bravo Battery when they left, nearly two years ago. On their return, the soldiers were presented with a commemorative coin from the VFW post. Soldiers were brought to attention to receive the coin, and to witness the presentation of several medals.
A Purple Heart was presented to Sergeant Crawford. Phillip Ewerdt received an Army Commendation with Valor. Spc. Andrew Hanson of Luverne received several. His vehicle was hit by a bomb in Iraq, and both of his legs were amputated. Hanson explained that he has been undergoing physical and occupational therapy daily while an outpatient at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. He thanked his comrades for their thoughts and prayers.
A moment of silence was given for the three soldiers who did not return from Iraq.
After a short prayer from a Fairmont pastor, the troops were dismissed and went home with their families.
Upon arrival in Jackson, a short parade was held, beginning at the Burger King.