REDMOND, OR -- It was a very emotional afternoon at the Deschutes County Expo Center in Redmond, Wednesday, as families welcomed home nearly 200 soldiers from Afghanistan. The Oregon National Guard 1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry left Central Oregon in June, to support Operation Enduring Freedom. KBND News spoke with Gary Combs as he awaited the return of his son, Philip. "It's been a long time. You can't help but worry the whole time, too; anything could happen. Technically, it's not a war zone anymore, I guess, but it's a dangerous place to be." Combs was one of over 600 who gathered to greet the returning soldiers.
Kathleen Riley spoke with KBND as she waited for her husband, Sgt. David Riley. "It's been a little bit surreal, kind of hard to believe the day's already here. I'm already so excited, it's hard to contain it!" She said she just wanted to tell him one thing, "That I love him, and I'm just glad he's going to be home." The squadron is based in Bend, with companies also located in Redmond, Klamath Falls and Lebanon. Soldiers will spend a month with families before the formal demobiliation ceremony scheduled to be held in their honor, May 16th at Vince Genna Stadium in Bend.
Staff Sgt. Alex Zang had to wait to see his family in Salem but wanted to send them a message: "I miss you guys, sorry you couldn't be here, but I'll see you really soon!" Zang says he's already making plans for the homefront. "I'm active duty Guard reserve, meaning I work full-time. So, I'll take the next month off and then go back to work full time at the Bend Armory." Gary Hunter with the Central Oregon Vet Center says his team is ready to help soldiers re-acclimate to the homefront. "Usually, when we have a group like this come home, the Vets Center starts getting busy anytime from six months to a year afterwards. There's usually a little bit of a honeymoon period for the families, then they start getting into the adjustment of things- particularly soldiers adjusting from a war zone to civilian life." Hunter says job placement and counseling are the main things vets ask for from the Vets Center.
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