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Troops home for the holidays

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By Christopher Bruce, News9.com

Soldiers with the 45th Infantry Brigade are home for the holidays. Thanks to the generosity of their fellow Oklahomans, "Operation Holiday Homecoming" was accomplished.

The soldiers were training at Ft. Bliss, Texas, when they were granted 10 days off for the holidays. But the U.S. Department of Defense regulations prohibit the Army from paying for soldiers' trips while on leave. That's when the generosity from the state poured in. Buses, food, fuel and money was donated to bring home more than 2,600 troops.

The American Legion of Oklahoma organized the homecoming. Local tribes and businesses donated $280,000. Love's Travel Stops donated gas and local universities donated 32 buses to transport the service members.

Indian tribes came from across the state to help raise funds. The Cherokee tribe donated $35,000. Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes also helped contribute by donating money.

Wal-Mart pitched in with $20,000, and a local TV-station ran a telethon raising $35,000 for the event.

Three separate sites, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and McAlester were created as drop-off points. Bus loads of soldiers came in between 9:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 23. Families were informed which soldiers were on what buses and when a bus would arrive; an announcement was made.

There were no ceremonies or military formations. It was created as a quick in and out operation to allow the soldiers more time with their family.

Many families showed up early and were anxious for their soldier to return. Cathleen Treanor and her daughter Kassidy from Guthrie were awaiting Sgt. 1st Class Michael Treanor's return.

"I am just relieved to see he's coming home," said Cathleen Treanor, Michael's wife. "We were counting the days. We just want to spend some quality time with him before he has to leave again."

Specialist Casey Miles savored the moment when his family rushed to hug him.

"Glad to be home and see my family, it was awesome," Miles said. "It's all worth it when you see the faces of these kids, and they all light up as the family members come through the door."

As troops arrived they were handed Christmas cards made by local elementary school students. The Christmas cards were packaged with 100 minute phone cards donated by AT&T.

On January 2, the troops will return to Ft. Bliss and wait for deployment orders to Iraq.

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