Welcome home, troops

Published 9:57 pm Friday, December 9, 2011

They are your neighbors and your friends at church. Your children go to school with their children and play on their youth baseball and softball teams. You meet them at the store, behind pharmacy counters and on college campuses. They are, in most respects, average Americans going about their normal lives.

But the men and women of the National Guard also have become an important part of America’s war on terror, and this makes them special. They join the Guard to supplement their incomes, to earn money for college and to help Americans hurt in natural disasters. And they join to contribute to the fight against our nation’s enemies.

Since 9/11, the nation has repeatedly called on members of the National Guard to join that fight, and when their units are deployed overseas, those average men and women drop their normal lives, put on their uniforms, grab their gear and head off to do their duty, making a quick transition from normal lives as students, pharmacists and accountants to their second lives as soldiers.

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For most folks in Suffolk, the National Guard Armory on Godwin Boulevard is a large, squat building where various city events are held each year. For the Suffolk-based Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team, it is home base, and it was a welcome sight on Thursday.

About 120 members of that unit returned to cheering family and friends and the proud accolades of a Brigadier General, all gathered within the armory to welcome these fine folks home from duty in Iraq, where they had been among the last members of the American military deployed in the Iraq war.

Their duty there was not glamorous. But as convoy escorts, they served at great risk of life and limb, and they performed that duty with great honor and diligence.

Having returned to Suffolk, they dispersed to waiting and thankful families all around Hampton Roads and Southside Virginia, just in time for Christmas. We couldn’t think of a better Christmas present for all involved. We’re glad that they’re home and proud their Virginia homecoming took place right here in Suffolk.