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Thank you First Battalion 194th Field Artillery Battery A and … Welcome home!

By Staff | Jul 12, 2008

There were hugs everywhere following the brief welcome home ceremony at Hoyt Luithly Field in Estherville on Friday.

A sweet but hot homecoming

It was the kind of day that Americans live to see-the troops come home safely after doing the work that needed to be done.

On Friday afternoon, the sun shone brightly where the home bleachers at the Estherville Lincoln Central’s Hoyt Luithly were packed with about 1,000 exuberant family members, friends, supporters and well-wishers.

The happy anticipation was in direct contrast to the memory from Friday, June 20, 2007, when the same folks said good-bye to 75 brave soldiers of the 1st Battalion 194th Field Artillery Battery A.

While the winds were gusting around the field, they were no match the elevating spirit of the crowd.

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The red, white and blue was worn proudly with shirts, dresses, headgear and shoes. Sporting patriotic temporary tattoos were babies and grandpas and some of the wives and children. As the crowd assembled, American songs were played as a huge American standard fluttered over the crowd.

It was heartwarming to see how many folks braved the heat to be present for the homecoming.

As the flashing lights of escort patrol cars were spotted with the Patriot Guard Riders, the crowd jumped up and cheered, waved, clapped, whistled.

The moment had come.

It was about 1:45 p.m. and the boys from Battery A were back on home turf.

All 75 marched in military formation to the field from the Estherville Readiness Center.

Once they were front and center, soloist Diane Nicol requested everyone join in and sing “The Star Spangled Banner.”

With hats removed and hands over their hearts, the masses sang loudly and proudly.

The Rev. Joel Jorgenson offered the invocation, asking for God’s blessings on this country, on our freedoms, for soldiers past and present and for these soldiers who have returned home safely.

Mayor Lyle Hevern offered Estherville’s grateful thanks and sincere appreciation for the troop’s involvement overseas. He also thanked the families for the sacrifice they endured in one year’s time.

Hevern added, “God bless us all and God Bless America!”

Congratulating Battery A on a job well done was Iowa Army National Guard Lt. General Steve Saunders.

“We are in the presence of heroes because everyone had a role.”

He said families kept it together at home by celebrating birthdays and attending ball games and family gatherings so the men could do their job in Kosovo without too much worrying about the families.

“There’s one last mission to be completed and that is to reunite with these soldiers who need to get reacquainted with families and friends; to be back 100 percent again.”