Soldiers come home amid cheers and relief
BOISE – Idaho soldiers are returning home.
More than 70 soldiers who served with the 116th Brigade Combat Team in Iraq landed at airports around the state Saturday.
Meanwhile, another 313 from the 116th landed at McChord Air Force Base in Washington state Sunday.
Most of them are from Idaho, and will prepare to head home next weekend, said Lt. Col. Stephanie Dowling, a spokeswoman for the Idaho National Guard.
And today, 24 Idaho Air National Guard airmen are returning from a year spent in Kuwait and Germany and at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.
They will be landing at Boise Airport, said Idaho Air National Guard Lt. Tony Vincelli.
“We knew there was going to be a mass arrival at the same time — we just didn’t realize it would be the same weekend,” said Vincelli on Sunday.
In all, about 1,800 members of the Idaho National Guard are getting home in the next few days and weeks after 18 months in Iraq.
There will be daily arrivals at McChord now until Nov. 11, when all the members of the 116th will be back on U.S. soil, said Dowling.
Nearly three dozen members of the National Guard arrived in Boise from Washington state Saturday.
Others flew to Idaho Falls, Lewiston, Pocatello and Spokane.
More than 75 relatives and supporters gathered at Boise Airport to cheer and wave banners when the first wave of soldiers arrived.
Several soldiers said the first thing they noticed was the smell of sage in the air.
Soldiers’ wives said they felt relief and elation.
“There is so much that you worry about,” Chandra Salisbury, the wife of Spc. Matt Salisbury of Nampa, told the Idaho Statesman.
“Any time they’re over in Iraq, you just worry.”
The couple has three children, including a daughter, now 1, who was born while Salisbury was in Iraq.
The 4,300-member 116th is made up of citizen soldiers from 22 states, and its largest contingent is from Idaho.
Most of the other soldiers in the 116th are from Montana, Oregon, Utah and North Dakota.
Mobilized in May 2004, the 116th trained at Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Polk, La., before being shipped to Iraq last December.
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