“It feels good to be home.”
Those were the resounding words from soldiers as the final wave of Red Bulls came home over the weekend.
Members of the Minnesota National Guard’s First Brigade Combat Team were delivered to Anoka’s Goodrich Field on Saturday and Sunday, where they were reunited with anxiously waiting family and friends after a year-long deployment to the Middle East.
The Patriot Guard and Anoka-Champlin Fire Department were also on hand to celebrate the solders’ return. Saturday’s was the 10th group of Red Bulls to come home over the past couple of weeks. The final group arrived Sunday.
“I’m so happy my dad is home with us again,” said Lauren Hoffman of Minnetonka. She waited with her sister Jenna and mom Cindy to welcome home Maj. Bruce Hoffman, when the bus loaded with Red Bulls pulled into Anoka Saturday morning.
Spc. Benjamin Vilina of East Bethel held his nine-month-old son Aiden high up in the air to get a good look at him, just moments after getting off the bus.
While not able to be by his wife Chelsea’s side when Aiden was born, Vilina was able to witness the birth via Skype.
Saturday was not the first time he got to meet his son in person. He was able to spend some time with his newly expanded family when Aiden was three months old.
The First Brigade Combat Team was deployed as part of the drawdown of military presence in Iraq.
“During this deployment, the brigade’s mission included base management, convoy security, reaction forces and management of specialized units from the Army, Navy and Coast Guard,” said Army Maj. Paul D. Rickert, public affairs officer for the First Brigade Combat Team.
“The brigade drove 2.8 million miles and escorted 27,000 trucks during 1,200 missions prior to the last U.S. military convoy departing Iraq.”
Rickert said this was the largest deployment of the Minnesota National Guard since World War II and the Red Bulls are known for having served the longest tour of duty in Iraq of any military unit, active or reserve, during the surge in 2007.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]