National Guard troops return to Oklahoma

Sunday, October 12th 2008, 7:05 pm
By: News 9

By Jon Jordan, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- More than 80 National Guard troops are home after being in Iraq for one year. Their return marked the beginning of a homecoming of more than 250 Oklahoma troops.

For many, it was a day that couldn't come soon enough. Specialist Charles Shell's nephew was born while he was overseas, and Sunday he got his first chance to hold him.

"It's a little much right now. It's a lot to take in, but it's very good. It's been a long time coming back. We're just ready to get home," Specialist Shell said.

For some of these National Guard troops, this was their third deployment, a process families say never gets easier.

Filing in one-by-one, the Oklahoma National Guard troops received a well-deserved standing ovation, the type of welcome home that's perfect for 85 of Oklahoma's finest.

"Oh this is awesome. Just happy to see my family, especially my mom and everyone, it's overwhelming," Chevelle Roberson said.

The wait has been long and hard for families, not knowing if and when their soldier would be returning home.

"It's wonderful, we are so happy to have him home. It's been a long time. We're really glad he's back," said Leann Gregory, whose husband just returned home.

During their time in Iraq, the soldiers of the 179th infantry division performed a number of duties, including working with detainees and the difficult task of running security.

"There's definite change from last time," Captain Colby Wyatt said.

This was Capt. Wyatt's second tour of duty, and he said the changes from his first tour are widespread.

"All the places that I've been to before, totally different. The built up was there. The last time we had no heating, no running water," Capt. Wyatt said. "This time, we had Baskin Robbins and all the food we could eat."

The success the troops have had over in Iraq are in the numbers. According to the Department of Defense, in July of 2007, 80 U.S. soldiers were killed. That's compared to 13 this past July.

As for the troops of the 179th infantry division, all were able to make a safe return.

"He came back. That's the main thing, he came back, very proud of him," said Larry Harris, whose son returned home.

While the troops are back, their mission isn't completely over. They will have to go through what's called "Yellow-ribbon Integration," a process that will help these soldiers get used to life back at home.