The First Battalion, 133rd Infantry returned home today, with a convoy that stretched through eastern Iowa and into Riverfront Stadium in Waterloo. A standingroom-only crowd greeted the 640 Iowa National Guard soldiers. Waterloo Mayor Tim Hurley was one of the many dignitaries on hand.
"Ladies and gentlemen, do you get the idea that we’re absolutely head over heels crazy about you?," Hurley said to a loud cheer from the crowd. Hurley says this has to be one of the greatest days in the history of Waterloo and the Cedar Valley. Hurley says the home communities tried hard to carry out "our mission" in the absence of the soldiers. "I think we’ve done well," Hurley says, "But it wasn’t the same without you. Thank God you’re home."
The leader of the Iowa National Guard, Adjutant General Ron Dardis, thanked all the family members who came out. "You are our greatest treasure, thank you for the sacrifices you have made, and thank you for your strong support of your loved ones who have been deployed," Dardis says. "You are serving your state and nation also, you truly are our heroes on the homefront." Dardis says the unit set a new standard for deployment.
He says they moved 152-million gallons of fuel, one third of the fuel need by the forces in Iraq. They drove nearly four million miles with over 500 total missions. Dardis also noted the two members who were killed in combat — Specialist Kampha Sourivong of Iowa City and Staff Sergeant Scott Nisley of Marshalltown. Dardis says, "These soldiers, for the sacrifices they’ve made, they will never be forgotten."
Dardis read a proclamation from the U.S. Congress honoring the soldiers and then personally thanked them. "Soldiers, you are heroes in my eyes. And I know you’ll say ‘General we’re just soldiers being soldiers and doing soldiers’ work,’ and that’s true you are," Dardis says. But he says they all altered their personal lives, made sacrifices and left the people they love the most, leaving one job for another to "defend this country from the evils of terror."
Dardis gave this final comment. "Soldiers we thank you for your extraordinary service to your nation. Great to have you back with family and friends. We are very proud to have you back, and we are proud to serve with you. Thank you, " Dardis concluded. The final item on the ceremony was to release the soldiers which came with a loud cheer from the crowd. The soldiers will spend the next several months getting reacclimated to their civilian life in Iowa.