Home News Local news Hugs, Tears of Joy Greet Returning V.I. National Guard Soldiers

Hugs, Tears of Joy Greet Returning V.I. National Guard Soldiers

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Oct. 31, 2006 — V.I. National Guard members serving in the 610th Quartermaster Company were given a heroes' welcome Tuesday, as they were greeted at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center on St. Thomas by hundreds of family members, friends and public officials bearing balloons, bouquets of flowers and bright smiles.
The crowd moved in unison as soon as the soldiers, who have spent the past year in Iraq, arrived via safari bus from Cyril E. King Airport. As they disembarked, parents, sons, daughters and spouses ran to their loved ones, screaming joyfully and offering numerous hugs and kisses.
"It's such a blessing to have all of our soldiers come back all in one piece," said Arleene Greene, wife of Spc. (Specialist) Hezekiah Greene. Holding her daughter, Monae, close, and her husband even closer, Greene added, "My daughter is so excited to have her father back on American soil."
After spending time greeting their families, all 103 members of the company were ushered into the center amidst cheers, whistles and sounds of drums being pounded upon by the V.I. National Guard Band. Once inside, they also received heartfelt messages of support from local Guard officials, such as Adj. Gen. Eddy Charles.
"The best thing about coming back is that you all have come back in one piece," Charles said. His remark was received with thunderous applause from the crowd, whose members waved large banners and miniature American flags.
1st Lt. Steve Alexander added that to have the group "come back alive is truly a blessing from God."
"You are all indeed V.I. heroes of the highest class," he said. "We went, we saw, we conquered. Mission accomplished. Well done 610."
Command Sgt. Maj. Barry Fredericks had similar remarks for the company. He said that when the soldiers left 15 months ago, "they operated as soldiers, as warriors."
"Now you've come back to these shores as heroes," he added. A sign displayed above Fredericks' head underscored this statement, proudly proclaiming in bold lettering, "The Virgin Islands National Guard Welcomes Home Our Warriors."
The company was also greeted by acting Gov. Bernice Turnbull, who thanked the soldiers "for the sacrifices you and your families have made in order to serve our country."
She added that the soldiers, when they were first deployed, were stepping into the "unknown."
"But you proudly went out and you served with dignity," Turnbull said. "And now I pray that you can find the strength to readjust to the everyday routine of normal life and these surroundings."
For many of the soldiers, readjusting to life within the territory did not seem to be an immediate concern. "I'm just looking forward to going home, hanging out and taking a shower," joked Spc. Kyle Sexius after the ceremony was over.
Sexius, who turned 21 on Tuesday, was all smiles during the ceremony as his fellow soldiers and members of the audience loudly sang "Happy Birthday" to him and Sgt. Charlene Bastian.
"This is the best birthday I've ever had," he said later. "And to be back here alive, all in one piece is the best gift ever."
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