Several hundred Iowa National Guard soldiers who’ve spent the last year on active duty in Afghanistan returned home Thursday. Soldiers from Second Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry quickly broke ranks and began looking for family in Johnston after a short welcome home ceremony.
Sergeant Kevin Burke of Grimes called the experience of the welcome ceremony wonderful. Burke says going through processing in Wisconsin knowing his family was waiting was tough. He says he expected the wait in Wisconsin to be a little less than it was, but says it was okay. Burke is proud of the work he and his fellow soldiers did.
“It was alright, I still think we could’ve done more, we worked out some kinks as we went through, but I think we did a pretty darn good job,” Burke said. He has one plan for the days ahead. “Relax, that’s gonna be it, relax,” Burke said.
On the wooden floor where high schoolers normally play basketball, Jason Neff of Des Moines held two-year old daughter Ava in his right arm and younger son Everitt in the left. He said his son looked twice as big as when he last saw him. Neff says the ceremony was emotional and overwhelming and he was “short of shaking” during the remarks. Neff believes they accomplished a lot on this mission.
Neff says everything went pretty well and they got a lot of compliments about how hard the Iowans worked. “I think we did a good job,” Neff said. This was one of three welcome home ceremonies Thursday, with several more ahead as the 28-hundred Iowa soldiers return home.