Family and friends lined the entrance to Lincoln East High School and more than a few shed a tear as they welcomed the return of about 115 National Guard members back from a year in Afghanistan.
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Troop C, long-range surveillance, was the third and final troop of the 1-134th Calvary to return to Nebraska. The first group returned this past weekend. In all, about 300 citizen soldiers served a year in Afghanistan, training the Afghan Army to take over defense of its country.
“Charlie Troop, welcome home,” Governor Heineman told the crowd gathered in the high school gymnasium for a half-hour ceremony.
“You guys are incredible. You’re the best we have,” Heineman said. “And, again, I just want you to know that Nebraska and America are really proud of your service and what you’ve done.”
This welcome home ceremony had to be pushed back a day. National Guard officials say an administrative delay kept the group in Wisconsin for another day.
Major General Judd Lyons, Nebraska Adjutant General, told families members that the mission of the 1-134th cannot be overstated. He said the mission to train Afghan soldiers will bear fruit years from now. Lyons encouraged the soldiers to have conversations with their families about the mission.
“Those conversations are important. Soldiers who worked so hard to prepare for deployment, your pre-mobilization training and I ask that you put as much effort into this next mission that is in front of you,” Lyons told the soldiers, “which is your successful re-integration with your families and your employers.”
During the ceremony, Specialist Eric Blackburn received the Bronze Star. Blackburn returned to Nebraska about a month ago after being wounded during a suicide attack in which he continued to fight off the enemy.
AUDIO: Welcome home ceremony for 1-134th Calvary, Troop C, Lincoln East High School (30 min)