There were tears of joy — and sadness — as an Iowa National Guard unit returned home on buses Monday afternoon. About 70 members of the Davenport-based 106th Aviation Battalion were released from duty after a brief ceremony following 18 months of service, 14 of those months in Iraq. At the welcome home ceremony, Governor Tom Vilsack remembered the soldiers from the unit who didn’t return.Two members of the unit, Bruce Smith and Paul Fisher, were killed. Vilsack praised those men saying they’ll never be forgotten and their bravery will continue to inspire others. At first there was anticipation, then excitement as the buses pulled up to the aviation unit’s headquarters. Captain Bob Hegland says the soldiers couldn’t be happier to see family and friends. Hegland says he returns with a mixture of excitement and sorrow after losing two of their soldiers and a third from the rest of the unit.While most of the returning soldiers greeted family, friends, and loved ones they had seen before, others kissed newborn babies they’ve never seen before. The unit was supposed to come home four months ago but had its tour of duty extended. Many of the soldiers say they’ll spend the next few days relaxing, having fun, and getting to know their families again.
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