Families welcome Red Bulls home from Iraqby Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
Inver Grove Heights, Minn. — The first wave of Minnesota National Guard soldiers began returning from Iraq Sunday. More than 1,000 soldiers from the Guard's 34th Infantry Division are coming home in the next few weeks.
The first group of about 250 soldiers arrived Sunday night and the soldiers were then bused to the Rosemount, Inver Grove Heights and Stillwater armories.
Since May, the soldiers have worked with military forces in the southern third of Iraq, and helped set conditions for a successful drawdown of American forces.
At the Welcome Home ceremony in Inver Grove Heights, Leigh Mathison from Monticello was waiting for her husband Ricky, who has served six tours, including two in Iraq.
"I'm just anxiously waiting. He can't get here quick enough," said Mathison. "We are very, very excited. We made him a huge sign so he can find us easily, and then we can finally go home."
Soldier Jeremiah Hokeness from Chaska hugged his family members. This was his second deployment to Iraq. He says he's looking forward to relaxing.
"It's just kind of a relief, just kind of a nice feeling," said Hokeness. "This is my second deployment so I'm kind of used to it. Probably just hang out and watch the Vikings and sleep."
The arrival dates for the rest of the units have not yet been released.